Facebook is hiding your messages from you

Summary:Facebook has a hidden Other Messages folder! You should probably go check yours and see what's waiting for you inside, just in case it's something important that Facebook shouldn't have put there.

Head over to Facebook right now. How many unread private messages do you have in your Messages folder? You'll either reply 0, or however many the little number red number at the top says you have. Guess what? Chances are you have many, many more messages waiting for you.

Open up the Messages folder. Yes, if you haven't already clicked on it, do so now. Now, look over at the left-hand Favorites menu. What's that under the Messages option? There's another folder, slightly indented, labeled as Other. Click on it. There you go, now you're in the hidden folder, called Other Messages.

This Other option only appears when you're already in Messages. That's why nobody ever sees it: once they click on Messages, they only ever look at the middle of the screen. There's no obvious way to access Other Messages from anywhere else on Facebook. The only other way to get here is to directly go to facebook.com/messages/other/.

When I look through this folder, I mainly see mass messages sent to myself and other invitees of various Facebook Events and members of numerous Facebook Groups. The rest comprise of spam messages, like the obvious one you can see in the screenshot above (thanks Addison, I think I'm impressive as well).

When I pointed out this folder to my friends a while back, however, many said that it included items that should not be in there. In other words, they're not spam and they're not mass messages. A few even got really annoyed that Facebook classified some of them incorrectly because they missed important information.

If you want to move a message from one folder to the other, you have to open the item in question, and choose the corresponding option from the Actions menu at the top. Alternatively, if you respond to any item in the Other Messages folder, the conversation is moved to your main Messages folder. That's rather intuitive, unlike the location of the Other Messages folder.

So, when did Facebook add Other Messages? It happened way back in November 2010. That's right: most people have been unaware of this folder for over a year. You may of course have messages in this folder sent before November 2010, because Facebook automatically moved them there from your inbox when it created the folder. What follows is how Facebook described its decision to add it.

"It seems wrong that an email message from your best friend gets sandwiched between a bill and a bank statement," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "It's not that those other messages aren't important, but one of them is more meaningful. With new Messages, your Inbox will only contain messages from your friends and their friends. All other messages will go into an Other folder where you can look at them separately. If someone you know isn't on Facebook, that person's email will initially go into the Other folder. You can easily move that conversation into the Inbox, and all the future conversations with that friend will show up there. You can also change your account settings to be even more limited and bounce any emails that aren't exclusively from friends."

In short, messages only appear in the main inbox if they're from friends or friends-of-friends, and if they aren't sent to mailing lists or broad distribution groups. Although Other Messages is supposed to work as a junk/spam folder on Facebook, it's not working perfectly for everyone. I have no problem with such a folder existing: even my friends who say they missed an important message admit that most of their messages in there are not worth their time.

That's not the problem here though. I don't believe Facebook should remove this folder, but I do think they need to make it more visible. I would wager that 99 percent of Facebook's 800 million monthly active users are completely unaware of its existence.

Facebook likely won't start displaying notifications for Other Messages, but I do hope they make it more obvious. Until then, it thus seems the best way to make sure you don't miss anything is to check the Other Messages folder on a regular basis, just like you should for your Junk/Spam folder in your e-mail account.

I first saw talk of Other Messages show up on TNW last month, but it has resurfaced again this week at RedheadWriting and Slate. Since the change was made over a year ago, I'm sure others have written about it before these two publications. If you'd like to be added to the list, comment below or contact me directly and I'll see that your article is included.

See also:

Topics: Collaboration, Social Enterprise

About

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years, he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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