by

Forget Me, Scott Reed

Language use in early human societies, tens of thousands of years ago, was very different from what we have today. Essentially all linguistic communication was face-to-face, symmetrical, and personal, conducted within a hunter-gatherer band or tribe or clan of at most a few hundred mutually acquainted people. Humans typically talked only to other members of their group. They used unamplified voice, eye contact, and perhaps hand signs. No writing, no mass communication.

Have things ever changed. For a year or two I have been receiving continuous, unsolicited, unwanted, asymmetrical linguistic communications from a stranger on another continent whom I have never met. A robot in the service of someone named Scott Reed has been hounding me with e-mails telling me that Scott has invited me to join his professional network on LinkedIn and wants me to accept the invitation and sign up.

I ignored the messages for many months, but they kept coming. So I sent e-mail to the account name mentioned in the emails, sscottr6168@aol.com, to ask Scott who he was and why he had invited me. Nothing came back, so apparently the e-mail was successfully delivered and read. But answer came there none.

More months passed and more reminders arrived. Eventually I e-mailed again, and this time got a robot response saying “Your mail could not be delivered because the recipient is only accepting mail from specific e-mail addresses.” So I’m blocked from contacting him, but he’s allowed to run a robot that contacts me over and over again forever! This didn’t happen in the paleolithic.

I am aware that there is a link at the end of each LinkedIn e-mail saying I can opt out of receiving further reminders. Don’t underestimate me. Of course I clicked on it. But there was no change: The reminders kept coming.

I tried to track down my tormentor. But “Scott” is very common as a given name, and “Reed” is very common as a surname. LinkedIn has at least 358 Scott Reeds. Which one was hounding me? The faith-based film distributor in Tuscaloosa? The commercial director in Manchester, England? The publishing executive in Scandinavia? The military chaplain in Atlanta? The senior vice president for mortgages in Orange County? Could it have been one of the Scott Reeds in Denver, Spokane, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Springfield, Cleveland, Austin, Seattle, New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, Des Moines, Louisville, or Toronto? But there was a catch: It turned out that in order to see all of them, I would have to join LinkedIn.

Is this my future, joining social networks I don’t want to join just so I can see lists of people I don’t want to know and try to pick out the ones who are annoying me with their requests to join what I didn’t want to join so that I can tell them I don’t want to join what I’ve already joined just to track them down and tell them this?

There is a Facebook account sscottr6168, but I don’t have a Facebook account either, so that still doesn’t permit me send him a message. The page at http://www.snpros.com/twitter/sscottr6168 says there is also a Twitter account sscottr6168 owned by a retired Virginia respiratory therapist, horn player, birdwatcher, and churchgoer. That must be him. But I am a non-retired non-horn-playing non-birdwatching non-churchgoer with no background in respiratory therapy. I don’t see how we could be more incompatible, unless I take up nude skydiving.

I don’t mean to sound unsociable, Scott, but I’m in too many networks already. If e-mail from strangers had even minimal nutritional content I would never need to eat. I’ve tracked down LinkedIn’s administrative troubleshooters and told them to call off the robots. Forget you ever heard of me, OK?

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