Facebook's spam machine

I'm getting more friend requests and notifications from Facebook than any other social network I've joined. Though, not on the scale of A-list bloggers -- I'm just not that well known. Or rather, my email address isn't that well known. That's because the first thing Facebook asks you to do when you join the site, is spam everybody in your email or IM address book.

I want to premise this post by saying that, of all the social networking sites, Facebook is probably my favorite. I like its clean and functional user interface, and in particular, the -- once controversial -- 'mini feed' which aggregates you and your friends' Facebook activity. The site's explosive growth suggests that I'm not alone, so much so that many are complaining of Facebook fatigue, with Jason Calacanis declaring Facebook bankruptcy over the weekend.

I can't keep up with the friend requests, the requests to confirm how we know each other, the requests to tell you I like you, the requests to tell you I want your to tell me what movies you want to tell me about, etc.

I have a certain amount of empathy with Calacanis; I too am getting more friend requests and other notifications from Facebook than any other social network I've joined. Though, not on the scale of Calacanis -- I'm just not that well known. Or rather, my email address isn't that well known. That's because the first thing Facebook asks you to do when you join the site, is spam everybody in your email or IM address book. It even offers to import those email addresses (all you have to do is hand over your log-in details for Gmail or AIM or whichever service you use), and with the touch of a button everybody you've ever exchanged contact details with will be spammed a friend request. And even though I've never taken Facebook up on this offer, I've been on the receiving end of the social network's spam machine, plenty of times. This explains why I've had friend requests from people I've only ever contacted once, people that I have no idea who they are, people I've lost touch with (sometimes on purpose!), and people I've never met. The list goes on.

FacebookÂ’s spam machine

Worse still, this isn't where Facebook's spammy tendencies end. One of the most irritating aspects of the site is the way it attempts to intrude on the role played by email. If somebody sends you a message through the site, by default, you get an email alert. However, you can't actually read the message via email, but instead have to log into Facebook to gain access.

Then there's the Facebook Platform which enables third party applications to set-up-shop on the site. One of the things that developers love about the Facebook eco-system is the viral opportunity, whereby when a user adds a new app, their social network is notified via their 'mini feed'. However, many applications take this one step further, and send some kind of request, disguised as a notification. So, for example, I'm sent an alert that so-and-so has posted a new video, but I have to add the video application to my profile to access it. Or I'm told that I've been "zombied", which feels just like spam but with no-end-game.

Add to this endless group invites, causes that I need to support (worn like a badge of honor), and it's easy to see where Facebook fatigue can set in.

However, I'm not declaring Facebook bankruptcy -- far from it. Instead, I don't log-in more than a few times a week, and take a very laid-back approach to requests of any kind. For me, email and IM is still where the real work gets done (social and professional), so I'm not bothered if Facebook alerts or requests aren't dealt with for weeks on end. Also, two tips for better Facebook productivity: as Fred Wilson says, install the FB app 'Email Me' to encourage people to contact you directly -- avoiding the site's log-in trap. And secondly, make better use of the 'limited profile access' option for people who send you friend requests who you've never met or only know on a very superficial level.

What techniques do you use for dealing with Facebook fatigue? Let us know in the comments.

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