Hey, You Kids, Get Off My Lawn!

Copyright 2020

There’s a tired meme of an old man standing on his front porch yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn. The image that comes to mind is a man with gray hair, often without a shirt and only a tank top above his stretch trousers. He raises his fist in impotent rage at the youngsters who are violating his space.

The meme has been used by David Letterman, Dana Carvey, Grampa Simpson, and even Clint Eastwood. It’s old and tired — just like I feel sometimes. Perhaps because I am.

Of course, in our continuing techno journey of mounting irony, we have upgraded this frustration to include our devices. How often have you received unwanted and incessant text messages, phone calls, emails, and social media posts that are unwelcomed and often smell of fraud? Let me give you my score.

In the last two weeks, I received the following unsolicited communications:

— 13 Text messages

— 84 “Scam Likely” phone calls

— 160 “Junk” emails

(I don’t do social media anymore)

Just clearing these out to get to messages of actual importance and interest takes more and more of my day. I have blocked 804 phone numbers, so far. I have spam blocking settings on my email accounts. Yet, the above messages, calls, and emails are the ones that get through these gauntlets.

Just to be clear. I almost certainly have fewer days ahead of me than behind me. That means that I’m running out of time, making what’s left more precious. Spending a minute clearing out the crap communications is a stolen minute from savoring life.

But my experience is tiny compared to the nation as a whole. In 2020, there were 54 billion spam calls. For those numerically challenged, that’s 54,000,000,000 calls. Those produced $3.3B in consumer losses to digital fraud. (shorturl.at/xDTZ5)

What’s to be done? Well, so far, laws passed are not working. The CAN-SPAM Act, TRACED Act, and the Do Not Call Registry are not effective. We need to redirect our focus.

Let’s impose fines on the carriers — the email and phone companies. Fining every message that prompts a consumer complaint will reduce — if not eliminate — the stream of crud. Don’t try to punish the senders, they are too wily to get caught. Moreover, many are offshore and beyond the reach of US law. Starve them. Choke off the enablers who profit directly or indirectly from the sewer of junk they direct our way.

Yes, I’m an old man. I’m mad as hell. Get off of my phone!

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Historian, informatician, novelist, and grandfather. Part-time curmugdeon.

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David Potenziani

David Potenziani

Historian, informatician, novelist, and grandfather. Part-time curmugdeon.

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