The National Geographic Effect

In March of 1974 an eminent scientist named George H. Kaub called for the immediate cessation of publication of The National Geographic magazine. His urgent call was based on the fact that subscribers to the magazine – he estimated there were approximately 6,800,000 worldwide – never threw away an issue, storing them instead in basements, attics and garages. Writing in The Journal of Irreproducible Results he warned, “the geologic substructure of the country would no longer support the incredible load, and that subsidence would occur.”

Which got me to thinking!

I see some pretty nasty computer problems in my line of work: computer viruses, hardware failures, corrupt data and software. I’ve even treated clients for “Recyclus Binus Prematurus” and “Trashes Interruptus.” But, by far, the most unbelievable problem I see is the astronomical amount and bulk of saved email messages! Why do people keep so many email messages?

I have seen In Boxes and Sent Items Folders with thousands of messages. And the Deleted items Folder? The amounts I’ve seen in there rival the populations of some major North American cities.

There is no need to keep messages. Hey… you deleted them from your In Box – so empty the Deleted Items folder! One client I spoke to suggested that it was important to keep the deleted items “in case she needed them.” “But lady, you’ve already deleted them!”

I’m thinking maybe saving all this stuff has something to do with self-esteem: the more the merrier. “Look at all these messages… want to see what I got on March 14th 2000? Oh, and here’s a great diet idea sent directly to me by Dr. Atkins himself!” (Dr. Atkins died in 2003). Believe me, nobody needs to keep that much and they certainly don’t realize what’s accumulating on their computer.

eMail doesn’t weigh anything so I’m not worried that the stuff is going to compromise the earth. But email takes up space… lots of space! It takes up screen space and hard drive space. And getting it out of your email program, either to the trash (and don’t forget to empty the trash too) or a separate folder on your computer works wonders. For one thing you’ll reclaim a lot of hard drive space, your email program will run better and you’ll be able to navigate your eMail more efficiently. And you won’t keep getting cryptic messages from your internet provider warning you about “High Water Marks” and “Quota Overage.”

I am not calling for end of email. I’m calling for common sense and practicality. Take a deep breath and delete the forty copies of the same joke from Uncle Morris and by all means get rid of Aunt Bertha’s weekly updates on her psoriases condition.

You can read George Kaub’s article about National Geographic by clicking here.

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