I have a Gmail account I use for non-blogging purposes. It uses an initial/name combo that I probably only scored because I was early on the Gmail train. Since my name is incredibly common, I considered myself lucky it was available and have been using it loyally for professional purposes since. HOWEVER – because it’s a common initial/name combo (think: email@example.com) I get a lot of email not actually intended for me.
I’ve been signed up for various services that I’ve had to immediately “unsubscribe” to. I’ve been emailed coupons for businesses I don’t use and newsletters for organizations I’ve never been a part of. I don’t know if people just enter my email address as a random one knowing it’s not theirs, so they won’t get spammed. Or, if it is legitimately a mistake. Either way – it happens all the time.
However, I do also get a lot of personal emails not meant for me. Usually they are part of a group email sent to an entire family reminding them about some upcoming function. Or a list of friends who get forwarded the same religious chain letter. Easy to spot as not being for me, but also easy to ignore. But sometimes it’s a one-on-one email intended for one person who happens to have my last name – but is not me. When it’s a one-to-one email, I’ll pause and consider emailing the person to let them know they have the wrong email address. I’ve been contacted before by someone saying, “I finally found a person who knew your email address and I’m so excited to be back in touch with you. How are you? Love, Uncle Frank.” I emailed him immediately. That was obviously someone very excited to be in contact with the intended recipient, so I wanted to let Uncle Frank know he has bad sources for email addresses.
Most of the time I just archive the emails and go about my business. However, recently I’ve been emailed in a group of college students in New York about some sort of Student Action Coalition battle going on with administration. I get these emails that say things like “Emergency Meeting: We’ve Been Suspended!” They’re some sort of an Anti-War group that is protesting something and are all riled up over the suspension of some of their members. It’s actually kind of exciting, but when they started worrying there was a “traitor” on their listserve, I decided to tell the head of the group that he was emailing the wrong person by having me on the list. I didn’t want someone to spot my email and be like, “Her! I don’t know who this person is! She must be ratting us out!”
So – I contacted that person. And I’ll usually contact direct emails, but what about the other emails? What protocol should I use to determine whether I should respond and say, “Sorry. Wrong Number.” Should I respond to all family-type emails even if they’re generic “Jackie made the softball team!” emails? Should I consider that the intended recipient might be sad at not getting those emails? Or should I just assume it will work itself out sometime at the next gathering when that person pipes up about not getting emails? What would you do? Would you simply ignore them all?
And most importantly – is it sad that I am going to miss being on the protesting student email list?