“Looks like spam calls are picking up,” my editor told me today. Yes he does. A look at my call log for this week showed one real incoming call and 10 incoming spam calls.
We wrote a lot about this in 2019 – here are some ideas to protect yourself, and yes, I have gone nuclear, and if anything, the situation has gotten worse. The FCC has made some idle threats against carriers, but I haven’t seen any real action yet. At this point, I despair. The FCC doesn’t care; the carriers don’t care; the cost of spam is low for spammers and the fact that they are destroying networks? It doesn’t seem to matter.
Feels like a shit tide is rising
I used to not avoid the phone. When I was a teenager, I would spend hours and hours talking with my friends. But due to the high volume of spam, I’m not expecting any helpful calls, and neither is anyone else I know.
It is a pity. I don’t enjoy video calls, mainly because I can’t walk in front of the camera and walking helps me think. During my peak phone use, I used to take our cordless landline phone out to the back porch and pace around while my friends and I chatted. Watching old TV shows where people twist the cords on their phones gives me an indescribable nostalgia.
Every damn company wants my phone number, and none of them guard my data closely. I guess another part of the problem is the robo-markers. But emotionally, the problem feels bigger than that.
It feels like a shit tide is rising because it’s not just my phone. Spammers have gotten better at evading Gmail’s filters, I guess because Google is letting Gmail rot, just like search, while the company focuses on its shiny new AI toys. I’m getting fake receipts for purchases I didn’t make: probably phishing attempts. In my work email, all the lazy PR agencies have subscribed me to their newsletters without my consent.
I started using cash in stores again because cash doesn’t automatically sign me up for marketing emails I don’t want.
Just like with phone calls, I used to wait for emails; I even once made friends online through list servers. But as technology became increasingly central to everyday life, the number of people on my email dropped dramatically, and the number of marketers increased. I started using cash in stores again because cash doesn’t automatically sign me up for marketing emails I don’t want.
The pernicious thing about those marketing emails is how long it takes to unsubscribe. A click into a new browser window, where I have to confirm that I mean it and am asked to check a box to explain why. All for something he didn’t want in the first place. Thinking about it tires me. When I do annoying to click, I always report emails as spam. I don’t think it matters, but it makes me feel better.
There was a time when the internet was made up of people, but now that it’s all about spammers and corporations, I feel like I need a secretary, or a doorman, to make sure that only humans can communicate. When I was younger, the Internet felt like a ticket to a world bigger and more exciting than the cornfield I grew up in. But now it seems the noise has drowned out the signal that once sustained me. And it seems that nobody cares.
In fact, given shiny new AI tools that appear to be aimed squarely at destroying human connection, what good is ChatGPT if not marketing copy? — looks like we’re about to fall off a cliff. The tech industry’s contempt for users has been a mainstay since the days of the Bastard operator from hell. It’s not just the C-suite; I’ve come to believe that the average programmer hates me too and is willing to destroy my connections to my community for a nice paycheck.
I guess this is part of the shift towards group chats, isn’t it? I don’t use Discord because its UX gives me hives: too many notifications! — but I’m in multiple friends’ Slacks, plus iMessage groups, etc.
Those smaller spaces are effective in making sure I’m talking to humans, but they also make the internet less useful. They are like walled cities, with monsters prepared to pester you to death lurking just outside the gates. The Internet is no longer full of possibilities. It is full of spam.