A while ago I read a Facebook status from an acquaintance that mentioned a "secret folder" in Facebook's messaging system. The status advised all readers to immediately check this folder for important unread messages, and I remember rolling my eyes and thinking something along the lines of yeah, RIGHT. It sounded an awful lot like those chain-lettery panic-statuses that tell users to click 17 different things to prevent Facebook from rifling through your underwear drawer, or whatever.
Despite my skepticism, I did go ahead and check this mysterious folder, and lo and behold, I had three missed personal emails. One was a greeting from a friend I hadn't seen in nearly two decades -- and his message had been sitting there, unread and ignored, for seven months.
As it turns out, that Facebook warning was no scam: if you haven't checked the Facebook message folder marked "Other" lately, you may be missing something important.
If you click on Messages in Facebook -- either in the left panel under News Feed or on the top right next to Friend Requests -- you'll see your Inbox selected in bold. Right next to the Inbox is the light gray "Other" folder, and that's where Facebook stores messages it thinks are spam.
The problem with this secret message folder is that, like all spam filters, it's not a perfect system. It's also apparently part of Facebook's $1-a-message program, where Facebook charges a fee to message people outside your network. The New York Times reports:
If you try to send a message to someone who’s not one of your Facebook friends, a dialogue box appears. It offers you two choices: either pay $1, or condemn your message to that Other folder.
The program may not be quite as ham-handedly greedy as it seems; Facebook explains that this program is intended to eliminate spam. By limiting Inbox-bound traffic to messages from people you actually know (and people who’ve paid a dollar), Facebook can better ensure that you’ll never see junk messages there.
Unfortunately, you don't get notified when a message arrives in the Other folder, and it's not exactly an obvious place to check. Even though it's right there next to the Inbox, I'd never even noticed the "Other" option until it was pointed out to me.
At the moment, all the recent messages in my Other folder are indeed spam (a sampling: "I come across your profile and became interested in you. What type of relationship are you looking for. Are you single or married? I will love to get to know you if you don't mind please get back to me"), but that hasn't always been the case. I wish Facebook would put a flag on the Other category when there's something new in there -- but for now, I'll have to remember to click it occasionally to make sure I'm not accidentally ignoring someone.
If you do end up with something in your Other mailbox that shouldn't be there, you can select the message, then click "Move to Inbox" in the Actions pull-down.
Simply replying to an Other message also automatically re-categorizes it as something that should go to your Inbox.
Did you know about Facebook's "Other" folder? Have you ever lost an email in there before?
Image via Tian Jiang/Flickr