Is Facebook hiding “Other” messages from you? Yes, but why?

A few years ago I got what looked like an important piece of mail in my mailbox, and it was addressed to someone else with a unique name.  I thought about throwing it back in the mail with a “not at this address” note and hoping it would make it to the right place eventually, but then I had an idea.  I searched for that person’s very unique name in Facebook, and sure enough, I found one result and they were in Portland.  I sent them a message, and they were thrilled (it was in fact a very important piece of mail) and we met up craiglist style for the hand-off.  If I do say so myself, this was a pretty helpful and social interaction. Yay Facebook!

More recently, in November 2011, a woman left her laptop in a cab and a good samaritan sent her a Facebook message to let her know, but she never noticed it.

You see, between the time I sent my message and the laptop finder sent theirs, Facebook redesigned their message system to effectively ensure a message like those would never see the light of day.  So Elizabeth didn’t get the message about her long lost laptop until someone told her where to dig to find all her Facebook messages.

Where you can find your "Other" Facebook messagesHave you ever noticed the “Other” subfolder in your Facebook messages?  I haven’t talked to anyone who noticed it themselves, even though it’s been hiding there since November 2010.

Let’s take a look.  You can find it by clicking “Messages” and then the mysterious “Other” option that then appears below it.

The messages you’re alerted about and that land in your main message folder are typically just ones from your Facebook friends.  And messages Facebook deems as “less meaningful” — messages sent to you by non-Facebook friends like good samaritans, messages sent to all members of a group you belong to, etc. — go to the “Other” folder… to die.

Facebook’s “Other” messages folder is very similar to the the spam folder in email that we’re used to.  Except it would be like Gmail deciding all emails you receive from people who aren’t in your address book will land in the spam folder… and then making the spam folder very hard to find.

Is it better or more social to receive messages from anyone, or only your friends? Is Facebook trying to cover its butt and avoid the appearance of being used for spam at any cost? What do you think?  Have you missed any important messages thanks to Facebook’s hidden “Other” folder for messages?  Speak your mind / share your story in the comments.

7 thoughts on “Is Facebook hiding “Other” messages from you? Yes, but why?

  1. Very interesting and thought provoking write-up Kristina. In my view Facebook or any provider should not automatically decide how emails should be shown to users. Users should be given all options, and let them decide how to deal with their personal settings to have spam land in others and regular mails in inbox.

    But again Facebook hasn’t had that much of spam issues yet, and I seldom find some important message in the other folder as well.

    On the point of who should be allowed to send messages, Facebook is a public site, and just like somebody having your postal address can send you mails, similarly anybody having access to your Facebook email should be allowed the same facility. Further the ability to not receive, mark as spam or block further messages should be (and is) in place to safeguard privacy.

  2. Thanks for this post, KW. Mostly what I see in my “Other” inbox on Facebook are the commercially oriented messages that I get and view, versus the personal notes from friends. But I did just unearth a Facemail from August 2011 from a nice person wanting to connect.

    You make a great point here about being open to communications from outside one’s circle. Facebook is all about what goes on inside that circle — it is THE social utility for interacting with people who you really know.

    So, you can see where this Other inbox strategy is coming from. Here’s the problem though….Google and Gmail in particular sets our filtering expectations today. We want/need Facebook’s mail to be that smart.

  3. Thanks so much for your comments! It feels so weird to have a new blog – so far I’ve had 3 times as many real (and great!) comments as spam comments ;-)

    I completely understand the idea of separating friend messages from the rest. What I don’t like is the extent to which those other messages are buried. Like David, I found some messages in “Other” from people I kind of knew online who wanted to connect and talk shop.

    And I realized I forgot to include a key experience I had with “Other” messages. Here goes:

    Before Facebook implemented the “Other” messages folder I did a contest on’s Facebook page. I sent the 3 winners (who weren’t my Facebook friends) a message letting them know they won. They got back to me and I got them their prize. Then more recently, I did the same thing again. But this time none of the 3 winners responded to my messages, which I thought was very odd. Six months later once I heard about the “Other” messages it all made sense. I went in and found those old messages and added the people as friends, re-sent messages to them. This time they got back to me, and we got to have a laugh about this whole “Other” thing.

  4. I found a lot of messages from my friends in the “other” folder. Passing along the info. Thank you Kristina.

  5. [...] to me is how social networks deal with try to hide spam.  In my last post, I talked about how Facebook hides messages from non-friends they think could be spam.  This gives Facebook a sense on non-spamminess at the cost of preventing social interactions from [...]

  6. You know, I cant even find the “other” sub file any more. Can anyone help me?

    • Ah, Facebook moved it on us. Now if you click on “Messages” it takes you to a new page, and then you can click on “Other” at the top.

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