Every day I receive dozens of emails from people and businesses I don’t know. I wonder, where did everyone I know go, and who are all these other people?

I sign up for newsletters to stay in touch and enter contests to win trips. I sign up for one-time webinars to learn new things. I friend people who seem interesting online. But sometimes it gets to be too much.  One contest submission to win a trip becomes a barrage of notices and ads. One webinar becomes a weekly entreaty to sign up for a class series or purchase coaching sessions. One weekly newsletter becomes daily notices from sponsors.

I’ve been funneled. In a nutshell, “funnel” is a term to grow a business through online sales tactics and techniques that pique your interest, encourage you to sign up and then draw you in, hopefully to entice you spend money on a product or service. It may be good for a business, but it is annoying.

Have You Become Click-Bait?

It’s the same with pop-up ads on the internet. If you search for something, which I do often as a writer researching stories, you become click bait for ads. Just because I research subjects for articles I have written and radio show topics I have covered, I’ve been hit with ads on sexual aids, stubborn belly fat, wrinkle creams, arthritis drugs, legal aid, retirement homes and numerous insurance policies, financial and technical support services. The worst was being put on the mailing list for “porn hub” because I wrote about sexuality and menopause and intimacy issues after cancer.

I didn’t sign up for any of this, but they found me anyway.

Or maybe I was just unaware that I did. That’s because just about every contest you enter, newsletter, webinar, free class, free sample and special offer coming your way has a back-end way of signing you up for more, including being part of a database that, potentially, may be resold to and shared with others. Always read the fine print and disclosures because you enter and click. If you feel you’ve been baited, delete or unsubscribe as soon as you can. I had not done this with any regularity, and my email inbox this week became so full it stopped working. I had to delete and/or archive thousands of emails.

Talk about the reality check being in the email!

So, the moral of this story is: Think before you sign up, submit and enter anything online and be stingy with the information you provide to protect your privacy and your sanity.

 Quick tips:

Avoid checking small boxes agreeing to receive sponsor/advertiser mailing or other terms without reading the fine print.

Set up a dedicated email address for newsletters and offers and anything that is potentially either and clean it out regularly.

Every day, erase emails you do not want or intend to read and unsubscribe at the bottom if you never want to receive them.

If you do not want the person sending you the email to know you are unsubscribing (and potential ask you why), mark the email as junk and it will end up in that file to delete later.