Why do so many people have these three- or four- or even five-digit inbox unread counts? I become uncomfortable when I have more than about five unread emails, or if there are twenty emails of whatever status in my inbox — the rest get archived, of course. Out of sight, out of mind. Whew. It’s hard for me to fathom how anybody can sleep knowing they have such a scary number of unread emails waiting for them.
Why does the status of being unread matter, one might ask? There are already so many ways to classify things in the typical inbox: stars or labels or folders or flags or whatever your mail service may call them. Well, the thing that makes the unread qualifier stand out is that it already has meaning; you don’t need to assign it any. It means you haven’t read it! Thank you, Captain Obvious.
If you know how to use email, there are no good reasons to ignore the status. Is the email actually not important to the point where you won’t even bother to read it? In that case, why is it even in your inbox? If it’s spam, mark it as such; spam filters are pretty effective nowadays, but only if you train them, and even if not it only takes one click to get rid of it. If it’s some notification you don’t care about, unsuscribe or fine-tune your subscription. As invasive as web services are getting nowadays, I haven’t yet seen a legitimate one that doesn’t provide a link to let you do one of these things, even if it’s concealed in small gray text at the bottom of the email. Should you encounter a notification that doesn’t have these links or doesn’t stop spawning evil clones after you tell it to, don’t think twice; it is spam and should be mercilessly filtered as such. And if you still have two hundred emails left after all that, you should either rethink your values or start reading them now.