Better Left Unopened

Eight or nine days ago the New York Observer‘s Sarah Vilkomerson wrote one of the funniest observation-and-reporting articles I’ve read in ages called “You’ve Got Mail (You Never Open).” And I only happened upon it last night over dinner. Funny because it’s true, because it’s my life — because the urban under-45 onliners, one gathers, have become a nation of mail denialists.

“I don’t have a fundamental fear or anxiety that makes me avoid the mail,” Mark McMaster, a 29-year-old senior account manager at Google, tells Vilkomerson. “It just seems relatively uninteresting, and probably most importantly, doesn’t arrive when it’s relevant. I don’t want a bill to tell me it’s time now to pay by showing up at my door. I just got home from work, asshole!
“At Google, we wax philosophical about `the cloud,’ a metaphor for all the data that’s kept in a server farm that could be in Oklahoma or Beijing but you can instantly access from any computer or phone or BlackBerry that’s connected to the internet. I put as much of my life in the cloud as possible.”
As Vilkomerson summarizes, “The internet, with its neat-o technology, has made it so that, for the most part, not opening your mail doesn’t really matter.”
Update: It’s one thing for people to not use mail that much or as much — that’s been a growing reality for eight or ten years or whatever. Or for the usefulness of the U.S. postal service to matter less and less in terms of personal letters, bills, credit card come-ons and junk mail. But a growing subculture of web-savvy urban dwellers falling into the habit of not even opening their mail — that’s significant. And so far, no one reading this site seems to be appreciating this sea-change, or even chuckling about it. Flatliners. Asleep at the wheel.

  • frankbooth

    It’s a cultural trend? And here I thought it was just me being lazy.
    Been without a landline phone for eight or nine years. I guess this is part of the same evolution.
    I shred a fair amount of snail-mail without opening it, because I know it’s junk mail solicitations. Bank statements go into a file still sealed, since I access them online.
    Cards from family on special occasions are about the only stuff I actually look at.

  • Netflix… the only truly relevant mail I get on a regular basis. Though I do look forward to Birthday cards and such, but those don’t come very often. Ohterwise, bills, junk, gets shredded pretty much instantly. I do all my banking online these days.

  • nola

    When I lived in the States the most important mail I received was Netflix, magazines and the occasional invitation, thank note or birthday cards.
    All bills were paperless and paid online.
    Here I have to pay my bills at the post office. Fun.

  • mizerock

    I had my gas shut off last year – I hadn’t paid it in 6 months! All because it was the only bill that I didn’t pay on-line, and I forgot about it. Every month, I would take the bill that came in the mail and file it away unopened. It’s only when I came home to find a note on my door (“service has been terminated”) that I had any clue that there was a problem.
    I thought I had a clutter problem, but most of it could be solved if I just bought a bigger shredder. I could put 95% of my mail into it the minute I got home.
    Also, I don’t get many catalogs, but all the ones I do get need to get cancelled.

  • hatchetface

    I’m in my mid-30s, work in high tech, have a large part of my life in the cloud, so to speak, and also have a huge pile of unopened mail at the front door. Friends come in and just shake their heads. And it’s not a great answer, but the lines from the guy in the piece are about as accurate as I could be in explaining it myself, though I would also add plainly that non-descript, unopened mail has an air or menace that I don’t care to indulge. Fuckit.