Hidden Facebook messages

Jan. 20, 2012 | by jelly

If someone told you that there is a hidden folder of messages waiting for you on the internet, full of elapsed party invites, unclaimed competition prizes, missed connections and even job offers from months ago, would you believe them? Of course not.

But this is no scam or hoax. Facebook – that very website you rely on to keep you in touch with friends, family and important messages like these – has been deciding on our behalf which personal messages we are likely to want to see, and which it thinks won’t be of interest to us. The messages we receive notifications for on a daily basis have been deemed worthy of our attention, and everything else automatically ends up in a buried folder. Because these less-worthy messages don’t show up with a notification, you wouldn’t know about their existence unless you specifically know to check the folder.

As soon as I found out about this quirk, I looked through my buried messages folder. I had missed out on some festival tickets I won back in July as a Facebook competition prize. I also missed out on a speaking invitation and an enquiry from a journalist, amongst countless messages from interesting people trying to get in touch with me. Facebook, that’s a fail. I trust you to connect me with these people and opportunities, and you’ve let me down.

What have you missed out on? To find your hidden messages folder, sign in to your Facebook account and go to your main news feed page. On the left hand side of the page, click ‘Messages’, and then click ‘Other’ that appears underneath this link. Be prepared to be very annoyed.

I posted my frustrations on my Facebook wall, and it turns out that many of my friends have missed equally important messages.  One said, “I’m so angry! Had four messages under ‘other’ offering to buy a festival ticket I desperately needed to sell for a lot more than I ended up parting with it for.” Another ran a boat owners’ association Page on Facebook and missed messages from potential members asking for information about their boat.

However, my friend Jonathan raised an interesting, albeit sarcastic, point: “Ask for your money back.” Because Facebook is free for us to use, does that mean we shouldn’t complain? I don’t think so; Facebook is a huge business that makes a lot of money – it is predicted to earn over four billion dollars of revenue in 2011 – because we use their website. We rely on Facebook to help us keep in touch with family and friends; they haven’t got the user experience right, and this has cost us in missed job opportunities and damaged friendships, whilst they’re making millions from our usage. Yes, we have a right to complain.

Interested to find out what other opportunities people have missed out on because of this, I conducted a short survey on this subject. The vast majority of those surveyed – over 80% – were not aware that Facebook filters some of their messages into the ‘other’ folder. Most interestingly, of those surveyed, almost half felt they had missed valuable messages after being prompted to check their ‘other’ folder.

Some examples of these missed messages were really quite serious – such as contact from a cousin about a family illness, and a childhood friend sending a message of condolence after a parent’s death going unanswered for over seven months.

Others felt their professional lives had been damaged: “Someone contacted me about a domain name that I own that they would like to purchase.”  Another was equally annoyed: “I received a message from a customer displeased about a recurring payment coming out of his account. I lost his business from not receiving that message.” Other missed opportunities amongst those surveyed include a modelling contract offer, and invitation for their band to play at a gig.

Jeremy Head, Travel Editor at iCrossing and a freelance travel writer, was annoyed to learn of the messages dating back months in his buried folder: “I missed invites to a couple of writer/book/product launches and Brighton journalist meet ups.”

The most frustrating thing about this situation is that there appears to be no clear filtering system. One of my colleagues said, “There were messages from friends inviting me to birthdays/events – I can’t understand why these were filtered as they are in my network”.

Ignorance is never an excuse, and I am equally frustrated by people who complain about Facebook features that they just haven’t taken the time to explore or learn to use properly. But this is different: when we put our trust in Facebook to keep us connected, why should it – somewhat randomly – dictate which messages we are notified about?

If you dare, delve into that hidden folder of messages waiting for you on the internet. Let us know what you find, and go on, have a little rant about it on your Facebook wall. In the wake of missed job offers and long-lost-friend reconnections, irony will make you feel a little better.

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    Comments (3)

    • petros diveris

      Well, I just checked my 'other' folder. There were a lot of invites for events organised by people and orgs who are (facebook) "friends". There was also a message from an old flame asking whether it was really me. I am pissed off this last one was filed under "other". Regarding the invites, I managed to attend most of the worthy ones purely because someone else would mention the event, or hear about it somewhere else.

      What annoys me is that the messages under "other" appear random and just proving the point that facebook put stuff their arbitrarily, probably not for good reason either (the amount of crap I get in my normal stream is unbelievable). If facebook are to use arbitrary criteria file and/or present items from one's inbox, then they should state this clearly and make people aware of it. I never noticed that "other" folder until you mentioned it!Feb 9, 2012 07:50 pm

    • Hidden Facebook messages « Owen Richardson's Blog

      [...] read an interesting blog - http://connect.icrossing.co.uk/hidden-facebook-messages_7875 – and will summarize it quickly. it seems as though Facebook doesn’t display all [...]Jan 23, 2012 04:34 pm

    • Alex Bramwell

      Good god, that really is an epic fail!! Loads of valuable stuff stored away in mine, especially messages from people I am not friends with, asking for advice, help and offering work.Jan 20, 2012 12:13 pm

    Please note: the opinions expressed in this post represent the views of the individual, not necessarily those of iCrossing.

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