Hopefully you get this.

It seems a ton of people haven’t been. Technology is awesome until it sucks.

About a month ago, readership fell off a cliff. Initially, I chalked it up to vacations and post-cookout hangovers (yes, YOU should read less email on summer weekends). Then I wondered if one of my recent rants pissed a bunch of people off – I was a little belligerent about the Fourth of July.

Eventually, it became clear that a ton of big company servers were blocking me – not just this mass email but even my 1:1 messages to business friends. The timing was a mystery, because I’ve been uncharacteristically G-rated and non-frat-boy lately, for the most part. 

One increasingly plausible theory (seriously) is that my phallic surname was prohibiting me from penetrating more prudish corporate firewalls. We changed my email alias to “jd@” and it seems to be working…for now. Let me know if you’ve ever experienced dysfunction from genitalia-related euphemisms in your email handle. Maybe I’m not the lone sufferer. 

We’re still not sure what the problem is – and we have some of the smartest Carnegie Mellon-spawned engineers in the world on our team trying to figure it out. Yes, it’s way, way below their paygrade. Occasionally, but very rarely, I flex my right as a prima donna CEO to disrupt the tech priorities.  

In any event, I’ve been feeling like the unmasked dude hacking up a lung on an airplane during a COVID surge (“It’s just allergies, I swear!”). I’m a digital leper. Who knows how many business opportunities I screwed up because people thought I was blowing them off?

What a nightmare.  

What’s worse is how many of you simply assumed I was taking a summer sabbatical. Come on. Haven’t I proven my OCD about this thing after all these years? The weekly validation of your opens and replies is oxygen for my narcissism. I can’t suffocate just because it’s warm outside.

So, if you missed what critics (i.e., my mom) are calling some of my all-time best material over the past few weeks, you can check out the archives here

As an aside, a few years ago, a guy wrote to me saying how much he loved this email but hated when I wrote about this email. For his sake, maybe I’m still getting blocked. 

But this was the biggest thing on my mind this week.

Here’s what we’re seeing:        

Nearly a quarter of you have started holiday shopping already and thanks for making the rest of us feel bad. As someone who regularly sends my godkids Christmas gifts at least a week or two late, this is unfathomable to me. Somehow, 6% of Americans say they’re already done (or mostly done) with their holiday gift-buying. Kohl’s shoppers are the furthest ahead of the game, followed by Walmart, Amazon, and Target. No surprise in our current inflationary malaise, deals and promotions are most front-of-mind for this year’s shoppers. We’ll see if concerns over product availability and shipping climb as the shopping season for normal people approaches, like it did last year. Either way, our Consumer Holiday Tracker is off and running for 2022. Buy it, unless of course you don’t really care what’s going to happen with holiday retail.

Economic headwinds could cause a lot of disruption in the Medicare market this year. Twenty-three percent of current Medicare recipients say they are either shopping for a new plan or considering it, as the enrollment period nears in October. The number one reason is cost – as 31% of current or likely switchers say their current plan is too expensive. Women are more likely than men to be shopping and people in the Midwest are more likely than those in the West. That’s a lot of money up for grabs.

In one of the more surprising discoveries our database surfaced in recent memory, young people are reversing the trends in recycling. I would’ve bet my Taylor acoustic against this mind-bending insight, but older Gen Xers and Boomers are recycling, religiously, more than twice as much as younger Millennials and Gen Zs. Almost as remarkable is the fact that the partisan divide is far less stark than you would expect. Young people are also less likely than their elders to report being “very concerned” about climate change. Call bullshit if you want (like I initially did), but we checked and triple-checked the numbers. They’re legit.


Dating trends are changing as we emerge from the COVID era. I dated the same girl through most of high school and college, then met Tara about two months after I graduated, which means I’m about as experienced at dating as I am at skydiving. So, this is definitely one of those topics I defer to other people here to study. Anyway, of the roughly half of Americans who are currently unmarried, less than a quarter are currently dating. Bars and restaurants are by far the most popular spots for first dates, though much less so among Gen Zs. One notable insight from this data is the declining use of dating apps between last year and now. I guess that’s what happens when people get out of quarantine. 


There’s a new social media app on the block, aimed at encouraging more authentic behavior, but let’s be real. Yes, just what the world needs – another social sharing platform – but BeReal is here, nonetheless. Basically, the premise is that you have to share an immediate picture of yourself, wherever you are, whatever you’re wearing, and however little sleep you’ve had. It’s still super small, with less than 5% of people saying they’ve used the app and half of those people saying they don’t like it. I’ve been wrong before (once, I think), but I’m not sold. People like to be idealized versions of themselves on social media. It’s kind of the point.

More from the merry band of CivicScientists:

These were our most popular questions this week:

Answer Key: Depends on the kid and how long – but 13 is okay for a couple hours; Lol – I always get last pick; No, and if they are, I’ll push the goalposts back; Not even a little; I love this question so much, I’m going to write about it later – so, I’m not telling.

Hoping you’re well.


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In case you’re wondering, this is an informal email I write to CivicScience clients, friends, and other VIPs every Saturday morning. If you’re getting this, you’re either one of those people or were referred to me by one of them. I always love your comments and feedback.

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