Blog Of The Nation
12:51 pm
Sun February 5, 2012

The 'Other' Thing You May Not Know About Facebook

Originally published on Sun February 5, 2012 4:57 am

Now that Facebook has filed to go public, there's a lot of reflection on how the social media site became the mammoth it is today. The site has gone through a lot of changes in its eight years. Remember when you had to have a college email address to join? Remember when you had to type "thefacebook.com"?

The Associated Press put together a timeline of "milestones in Facebook's history" that highlights the introduction of the Wall in 2004 (taking the graffiti connotation away from the concept of writing on one), the News Feed in 2006 (I can't believe it's been around that long), the "Like" feature in 2009 (how did humanity express approval before this?), and other big moments up to the roll out of the Timeline last fall.

But there's another feature that Facebook launched over a year ago, that you likely don't know about. Did you know that there is an "Other" folder in your Facebook inbox? Accessing this folder requires using the sidebar on your home page to access messages, rather than clicking on the red notifications at the top. (See photo).

It's essentially a spam folder. Most of the things in yours will be messages about events you weren't planning to go to, or musings that you'd prefer not to see. For example, a message in my inbox from a stranger, "Hello Pretty Lady How are you tonight?" But some of the messages will be from real people, who aren't your Facebook friends, but are actually trying to contact you.

Now if you haven't already closed this post and hightailed it over to Facebook to explore this previously unknown vortex, here's some information about why and when this actually happened. And for those of you who've made the switch Timeline, it's still real there.

In a post on the company's blog from November 25, 2010, they explain "The Social Inbox":

It seems wrong that an email message from your best friend gets sandwiched between a bill and a bank 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.

I first found out about this folder from a piece on Slate. Elizabeth Weingarten told a kind of heartbreaking story of how a man who tried for weeks to contact her and return the laptop she'd left in a cab, but his messages were banished to her Other folder.

You never know what you'll find in there. The wonders of the Other folder were fully realized for me just a few days ago. About a year ago, I wrote a ridiculous love song to condiments, a class of foods with which I am obsessed and on which I am completely dependent. I filmed a music video for it and posted it in the fall. I checked my folder last week and found a month-old note from a seventh grade teacher in Illinois who was taking her class on a trip to see the inner workings of a condiment factory. (Facebook should know that any note mentioning condiments is not spam for Priska Neely). She found my song online, and it became the class' "theme for the week."

Needless to say, I am ecstatic that I discovered that message. Knowing about this folder makes me feel a lot better (not only because I discovered a small fan club of seventh-graders many miles away), but because I now know that the people I've tried to contact over the years weren't ignoring me. My messages just went to some Other place they don't know about.

Note: If you can muster the energy to navigate your settings (Privacy Settings --> How You Connect --> Edit Settings --> Learn More --> Privacy Controls by Feature --> Messages --> How do I control who can send me messages?), you will find an explanation that "mail from friends and their friends goes directly to your main Messages folder, and everything else goes to the Other folder within your Messages." This is all very simple, once you know that it's actually happening.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.