Is Your Gmail Haunted?

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
Do you use Gmail? I do. I've had my @gmail.com address for years now.

It's free'ish and I've grown accustomed to Google's big brother tendencies.

I've received thousands of messages and sent at least 42 messages myself in those years.

It works for me. 99% of the time it's flawless. The 1% or less of the time it gives trouble is still a P.I.T.A.

The past few weeks I noticed I was not receiving some messages I expected. Someone said they were sending me messages regarding a team I'm part of - but I couldn't find them using search.

I poked around and found the missing messages were in my trash. I pretty generous with my delete button. In spite of not intending to delete these messages I was probably guilty of deleting these - or worse, I'd added them to a 'delete' filter at some point. I didn't think I'd done that but computers are G.I.G.O. so something mucked it up (likely me).

I dug in a bit further to my 100's of filters and rules that I set up over the years and could not find the rule removing these messages from my inbox and dumping them in the trash. I didn't have any forwarding in place or accounts with control over my incoming messages that I was aware of. It was a mystery.

I figured I'd fix it by declaring filter bankruptcy and decided to delete the hundreds of filters I had in place. A couple years ago I completed an email bankruptcy and deleted many years and hundreds of thousands of archived messages that I hadn't looked at in a forever. Deleting my past emails was freeing and had almost zero impact on me, so doing the same with filters wasn't much of a risk. I felt fine as I clicked delete on all the filters, hoping it'd fix the issues with missing emails.

It didn't fix it.

I continued looking around the internet for solutions. I'm pretty sure it took me at least three google searches to find a promising post that may have contained a solution. The string that sussed it out:
"stop gmail moving message to trash"
The first non-featured snippet seemed to point me in the right direction. It mentioned checking my Google account security for any third-party apps that I may have given access to over the years. I checked my account and found just a few authorized apps - MacOS, a mobile app to access Blogger, and Unrollme.com - an email service I'd removed a long while ago, I thought.

Long story short there was this post from 3/13/19 in which the poster was looking for a solution to a very similar problem to mine. The best answer to their problem based on other's votes seemed very close to fitting my needs. In fact I was able to replicate the solution and remained hopeful my messages would stop auto-deleting. I simply needed to delete my Unrollme.com account - easy enough - then log out of my Gmail account to remove the setting-ghosts that'd been stuck.


And not-done.


Try again.



Re-read the solutions. Keep digging. Down at the bottom of the comments on the solution post someone named "Ren19" commented they had to delete their Gmail account from their phone in order to fix the issue. Ren19 had posted their comment just 23 hours ago (on 10/4/19) to the original post from March 2019.

So I tried removing Gmail and account access from my iPhone.

Logged out of Gmail on my MacBook again.

Logged in again.

Moved one of the missing emails from Trash to Inbox.

Hit refresh.

And the email stayed in the Inbox!


What I learned about Gmail today is there are ghosts. Setting-ghosts who hold on to what happened in the past and permeate what happens going forward, impressing those choices on the future with no regard for changes requested. These ghosts aren't easy to find and move from device to device without leaving breadcrumbs to follow their ways.

If you're dealing with digital ghosts, don't give up. Look a bit deeper. Solutions can be found if we're willing to search. Keep digging.

And if you decide to stop using Unrollme.com - delete your account and remove Gmail from your mobile devices and refresh it all - and you probably won't lose messages you're expecting. Maybe.

Because ghosts.


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Thanks so much!