A Netiquette Question for Discussion

Ok, so let’s say that you  are in the habit of sending out e-mails to an acquaintance with opinions, links to articles, and the like. Usually you send such missives to a set group of acquaintances and sometimes you just target a specific person whom you assume will be especially interested in a said topic.

Let’s say you do this anywhere from once every couple of weeks to multiple times a day, depending on the mood.  Further, let’s say that early on your acquaintance did respond a few times to your e-mails but usually doesn’t say a peep.

Here’s the issue:  unbeknownst to you, you are driving said acquaintance a tad nuts as said acquaintance isn’t too impressed with either the reading suggestions or the commentary attached thereto.  Further, after politely ignoring you for quite some time, said acquaintance is getting rather tired of deleting your e-mails.

So the question:  would you rather said acquaintance politely ask you to remove his e-mail from your distribution list or would you prefer that said acquaintance simply set up a filter that seamlessly and silently places your correspondence in the trash can?

In other words:  would you rather be told (after years) that your e-mails aren’t welcome or continue sending said e-mails directly into said acquaintance’s trash can?

Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Dodd says:

    I used to be that guy. And, while it pained me the handful of times it happened, I much preferred to be told when someone would rather not get my missives than to have them slowly building up a resentment toward me and not telling me.

    That said, I’d rather not know how many of my friends have me blocked on Facebook lest they see my occasional political posts.

  2. Ron says:

    Assuming you have the know how, just set up a filter. And that you know everything you need to know and don’t have content selection bias.

  3. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    I am quite willing to offer my opinion, which includes suggested readings, to anyone who asks. At the same time, I have no problem if they declare “cease and desist”. If someone isn’t interested in my opinion, I would respect them more if they told me so rather than just filter me out.

  4. About ten years ago I was that guy too. I would say tell him.

  5. Ron says:

    Has anyone done the inverse, i.e. telling someone to stop sending them content? I have, with the helpful hint that they should validate some of their forwards via snoops.com.

    By their reaction, you’d think I was insulting their intelligence.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Frankness is best.

  7. CGHill says:

    I think I’d rather be told, though subtlety is the watchword here; “Quit sending me that crap” is direct enough, but rather brusque.

  8. TG Chicago says:

    “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not particularly interested in this subject. Hope you’re well!”

  9. Linda says:

    I think I’d rather be told. That way you know, and don’t risk further alienation.

  10. Trumwill says:

    Most people will say that they’d rather be told. Most people, when told, will be offended. Often they will try to spin it in some way that they’re not offended by the (not-unreasonable) request but because of something tangential (“They didn’t have to be RUDE about it” or “they should have told me that a long time ago!”) It’s pretty unavoidable.

    Maybe I’m projecting. I used to kind of be like that. At some point I’ve moved beyond it, but I think a lot of people never really do.

  11. modaca says:

    I started out sending stuff to good friends and a couple of family members. Some didn’t respond and I figured out they didn’t read it so I quit.

    One immediately sent me the opposite political stuff. That was wonderful. I got it!

    Now I don’t do it anymore. I have a group of old friends who are mostly of the same political bend but some moreso than others. We rant. I checked on one of the members who doesn’t respond. She says she’s too busy to join but loves lurking.

    My husband receives stuff from several people. He’s easygoing so puts up with the fanatical stuff to keep the friendship. One friend sends so much stuff that is usually very creative that he filters it into its own folder so he can look at when he has time.

  12. sam says:

    I think I’d rather be told to cut the crap directly, but gently. Maybe the thing to do, to avoid any nastiness and preserve friendship, would be to say right upfront, “If I haven’t heard from you re the following in (say) a week, I’ll not send you anything else. I don’t want to be a burden.” The silent opt-out. If the recipient does like your mudpies, but happens to be out of town or some such during the opt-out period, he or she can always ask to be reinstated.

  13. Okay Steve I get the message, I’ll stop sending emails 🙂

  14. Mission accomplished! 😉

  15. Andyman says:

    Tell the sender that you’re sorry, but because of your schedule or obligations you simply don’t have time to read the emails anymore. Say that it makes you feel guilty to trash them after the sender put so much time into assembling them, so you’d rather not get them, or maybe they should come much less frequently, etc.

    And could someone tell Dodd that we’d rather not get his posts on this blog? Gently, of course.

  16. tom p says:

    “By their reaction, you’d think I was insulting their intelligence.”

    I WAS insulting their intelligence!

  17. Michelle Dion says:

    I just forwarded this post to a friend.

  18. Bernieyeball says:

    “…tired of deleting your e-mails.” !?!? …click…click…Must be a real chore!!! Did they wear out the mouse???
    If I want the known universe to know what I’m thinking I’ll post a link to OTB or Reason or
    Show Me’s on Face Book and the heathens out there can delete or read. I’m a Sun Worshiper and we are not looking for converts.

  19. Franklin says:

    “Tell the sender that you’re sorry, but because of your schedule or obligations you simply don’t have time to read the emails anymore.”

    Spot on. You don’t have to tell them that you haven’t read any of them for the past five years or whatever. Just say you can’t keep up with them anymore.

    The problem with filtering is that you’re not telling them, and next time you see them they may ask, “hey, did you like the one I sent about X and Y?” and you’ll have no idea. Dishonesty always runs into problems like this.

  20. MarkedMan says:

    “Thanks for thinking of me, but my inbox is full and I’d rather not get political emails/jokes/heart warming stories. [Optional] I, of course, love to get the personal stuff about your and your family.” I think that works pretty well.

    “Please stop sending me all that personal stuff about you and your family. You sound like a cross between some sleazy reality show and a soap opera during ratings week.” Nope. No good way to say that one.

  21. James Joyner says:

    I used to be that guy but then I set up a blog. Problem solved!

    I now have the reverse problem. My wife finds out about something that I blogged about 3 days ago and gets miffed that I didn’t tell her. Hey, I say, it was right there on the blog!

  22. Rick Almeida says:

    I’d rather be told, tactfully, that the emails aren’t welcome anymore.

    “Has anyone done the inverse, i.e. telling someone to stop sending them content?”

    I have – I had to ask my uncle to stop sending me mass-forwards that have been around since ARPANET and political email.