Facebook is ditching its "Other" inbox. What are we losing?

"Hello angel how are you doing over there?" 

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FYI: Facebook has a Junk folder. It's hidden on the web version of Facebook messenger as a faded out option next to your inbox: the "Other" folder.

In it are all the messages from people you aren't Facebook friends with, but who felt the compulsion to message you anyway. 

FYI 2: Within the next nine days, it will disappear. Your old "Other" messages will appear in a new "filtered" folder. 

Facebook is rolling out a new feature, "Message Requests", which will allow non-Facebook friends to ask if they can chat despite not being your friend. This renders the "Other" inbox obsolete, and at least means that strangers can no longer send you bizarre diatribes without your consent. 

But before we bid a final goodbye to "Other", let's take a look at how people actually used it. I asked friends to send me the messages they received during the feature's short time here on earth. (Some, as you might expect, are NSFW.) 

The approaches from men (it's usually men) 

Based on anecdotal evidence, most womens' Other inboxes are dominated by these. Mine is probably over 60 per cent. It's one of the reasons we should be glad Other is on its way out, especially as while most of us just ignore these messages, some men and women have been drawn into "romance scams" via Facebook: the perpetrator messages random people, attempt to draw them into an online relationship, then scams them out of money.

"Hello angel how are you doing over there?" 

"Hello dear,how are you doing today,and how is the weather going?" 

"hey , I wanna draw you :) could we talk about that" 

"How are you doing? You are so beautiful"

"hi shannon. i'm an italian guy travelling in the world. i'll ask you straightly... do you love fisting too? :)" (Her name isn't Shannon).

"Hello, Although it is always difficult to describe oneself with out risk 
of sounding immodest....But here goes my name, Capt HARRIS BRIDGE, Also
would like to know more about you. Thanks."

"Hello, What a nice and sparkling smile you got. I wouldn't trade that smile for anything. i am new on Facebook, when i stumbled on your profile. I got entangled in that wonderful smile, couldn't stop myself from saying hello. what do you say to friendship with me....your response will be most appreciated...." (Sent to my mother.) 

The useful

"I just had your purse handed to me at the train station. If you would like me to send it to the address on your license I will." 

One friend went into the Other inbox when he saw my request and found a message from 2012 from a girl he met and liked at a festival, but then never saw again: "What a depressing Sliding Doors moment that is." 

The nonsensical

"Don't Forget About Thor...
Apparently Thor never knew he could earn so much working from home. He made a household tooth-whitening kit too. He also just realised that attractive single women in a town near Valhalla want to talk to him.
I've taken up stand-up, my vid is on the page. Let me know what you think.
PS Sorry for the intrusion....
Damn You Thor!
Simon D. Heaven"

A message from a Facebook group titled "I don't hate you b*tch, I just hope u get your next period in a shark tank" 

"can i went to your friend"

The upsetting

At least two people I know have found out about friends' deaths via the "Other" inbox. What makes this particularly unsettling is the delay: most of us rarely delve into our second inbox, so bad news can be seen much too late. 

While I was on an internship abroad, a friend at work died suddenly and unexpectedly. A photo I uploaded of him days before it happened was the last photo to appear on his Facebook, and his friends from back home began to contact me via "Other", desperate for details about the last days of his life. Again, I didn't see them until much later.

The "message request" function would have made these awkward situations far less difficult: a message request shows up immediately, so you can respond to bad news immediately, rather than stumbling across it sandwiched between messages from club nights and chat-up lines from bots. And the person messaging you will feel less like they're screaming into a void in vain hope that their words will, eventually, reach you.  

 

Barbara Speed is comment editor at the i, and was technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman, and a staff writer at CityMetric.

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