Unintentional Spamming and Facebook Etiquette

by Vu Bui on July 6, 2009

A couple weeks ago I received an email with a Facebook notification stating that someone had shared a note with me. That’s actually one of the many Facebook sharing types that I’m NOT used to getting… so I clicked it out of curiosity… most of these noticed I either don’t have enabled or I just delete them and go check it out when I get a chance.

The note ended up being a neat tip from a photographer about photo editing… there was no link to selling anything… no request for donations if you like the tip… just a plain old tip, with example and instructions on how to do it.

I didn’t know the sender of the message, which isn’t all that uncommon. I approve pretty much any friendship request where the person has more than 10 friends in common… I use Facebook much like I use Twitter… for posting information to those interested… and to check out interesting things in my communities and networks. Most of the people on Facebook who add me who I don’t know are photographers.

I chalked it up to a mistake, sending that note out to everyone instead of just a smaller select group of recipients, deleted the email, and moved on… until two days later when I received a second one, from the same person, to the same huge group of people (hundreds), with another useful (to some, I’m sure) tip on photography… with example and instructions.

This time I considered just blocking the person… but honestly their profile photo was really friendly… and I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt… and so I emailed them instead. Lan and I teach social media… and in our workshops we try to include a little etiquette… and so here was the chance to teach someone something… right? I ALSO wanted to just do it nicely.

Hi xxx,

Just got this in my inbox… VERY cool tip. The polaroid transfer one was also cool, and probably appreciated by many.

The only thing is… I would really rather not receive these via email (facebook messaging). That should be reserved for personal communication, not mass mailings. I’m sure some people love it… and those people should subscribe to your blog’s RSS or pay attention to your feed, or even subscribe to your feed via email if you give them that option.

Sending it out like this without it being requested, however, is actually spam, even though I realize you probably mean no harm with it at all, and it seems like you are sharing information and not trying to sell anything.

You seem like a nice guy, even though I don’t know you (you have a very friendly profile pic) and that’s why I’m writing this to you instead of just flagging you or blocking you on FB. I am quite busy and only really have time for information I seek out myself… not stuff that is fed to me unrequested. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

I teach social media etiquette and share my knowledge with the community as much as possible, hence the personal note to you, hoping you will understand this is about helping you and not attacking you.

Take care, and I do hope to see more of your work in the future… when I come visit your page. :)

Thanks,
Vu

I actually got a response, too… a couple days later. They thanked me for contacting them directly… and actually let me know that their Facebook account had been suspended… then asked if I knew of the best route to get their account reinstated.

I don’t.

Sadly, I think that a lot of people go through this kind of thing. It’s his fault for not reading the terms of service… so it’s completely within Facebook’s authority, right AND duty to disable accounts like these… but I wonder if there wasn’t a better resource out there… an Internet 101… something you had to read before you could ever sign on… that would make sure you knew the rules before you got out there and unknowingly wreaked havoc on others’ inboxes… if things like this could be avoided.

Internet etiquette is not as obvious to everyone as it is to us users who have been around for a while. I get downright pissed when people break the “rules” and my first instinct is to block or flag them. But I’m glad in this case I chose to try something different. It certainly didn’t save him… and he had to learn the hard way, like many people do. And hard it likely was, as he had over 1,000 friends on Facebook… and as my friend can attest to… Facebook doesn’t like when you add too many friends too quickly. He got a warning after doing 50 in a day, then another warning after trying 5 more the next day. More rules we need to follow because of all the jackasses out there spamming the crap out of everything.

I don’t even want to get started on how pissed I am that people keep falling for the phishing and spamming crap… which is the only reason they are able to keep doing it. Well, for the most part.

I suppose that as time goes on people will just learn. Sometimes the easy way, and sometime hard. Eventually there really won’t be any older people who are just now getting online. Just people who grew up using computers and the internet… and then weirdos who think computers are the devil. That’s right, there are only two categories.

-Vu

  • http://caseymckinnon.com/ Casey McKinnon

    I get tagged in notes and get random impersonal messages on Facebook all the time… very annoying. Thanks for writing about this. I often remove and block people depending on what their interaction is with me… I DEFINITELY remove people who I don’t know and have thousands of friends, and people who obviously work in Marketing. Blegh… they need to stop using Facebook for evil.

    • http://vubui.com/ vubui

      I concur. Using social networking sites for evil, as you say… is really killing their value. Unfortunately a lot of people don’t even know how to manage their own accounts or email filters to alleviate some of the pain, too.

      Hmmm… maybe that’s what I’ll do next. An anti-spam tutorial to help you live with Facebook with minimal bother and pain.

  • http://caseymckinnon.com Casey McKinnon

    I get tagged in notes and get random impersonal messages on Facebook all the time… very annoying. Thanks for writing about this. I often remove and block people depending on what their interaction is with me… I DEFINITELY remove people who I don’t know and have thousands of friends, and people who obviously work in Marketing. Blegh… they need to stop using Facebook for evil.

    • http://vubui.com vubui

      I concur. Using social networking sites for evil, as you say… is really killing their value. Unfortunately a lot of people don’t even know how to manage their own accounts or email filters to alleviate some of the pain, too.

      Hmmm… maybe that’s what I’ll do next. An anti-spam tutorial to help you live with Facebook with minimal bother and pain.

  • http://www.araxiphotoblog.com/ Araxi

    I think this is a great post and I think your response to that person was professional and courteous (no surprise there) It drives me nuts when people do this. I have also seen people “Tag” photos of people they don’t even know to get the traffic to their images. Some people just dont know and others are downright inconsiderate. Thanks for the post Vu.

    • http://vubui.com/ vubui

      Yes I recently came across someone who is actually fairly popular on Facebook using that exact tactic to get more views… they were tagging top photographers in the industry… so it would show up in those peoples’ streams as though they were a part of it. It’s dishonest and pathetic.

      That’s my next post. :P

    • http://www.LanBui.com Lan Bui

      Yeah, I remember that!!!

      That was LAME.

      Using other people big names and tagging them is mega lame… but those big names could have removed themselves form the video too.

      I wonder if it was just a poor marketing scheme.

  • http://www.araxiphotoblog.com Araxi

    I think this is a great post and I think your response to that person was professional and courteous (no surprise there) It drives me nuts when people do this. I have also seen people “Tag” photos of people they don’t even know to get the traffic to their images. Some people just dont know and others are downright inconsiderate. Thanks for the post Vu.

    • http://vubui.com vubui

      Yes I recently came across someone who is actually fairly popular on Facebook using that exact tactic to get more views… they were tagging top photographers in the industry… so it would show up in those peoples’ streams as though they were a part of it. It’s dishonest and pathetic.

      That’s my next post. :P

    • http://www.LanBui.com Lan Bui

      Yeah, I remember that!!!

      That was LAME.

      Using other people big names and tagging them is mega lame… but those big names could have removed themselves form the video too.

      I wonder if it was just a poor marketing scheme.

  • Darryl Glen

    Well written (both this post and your reply quoted within).

    It can be so easy to forget what it’s like to *not* be in the position of great familiarity with the internet and it’s various nuances and protocols. I think it takes a conscientious and empathic person to respond as politely and informatively as you did. Especially when replying to spam sent by on of those Facebook evildoers. :P

    Once again, well done sir!

    • http://vubui.com/ vubui

      Thanks Darryl! It certainly isn’t easy to nicely offer advice or help to someone who is doing something annoying… something that you know is wrong… and most of the time it would likely go ignored.

      This just happened to be the right case at the right time… in a good way. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect to make it a good example, either.

  • Darryl Glen

    Well written (both this post and your reply quoted within).

    It can be so easy to forget what it’s like to *not* be in the position of great familiarity with the internet and it’s various nuances and protocols. I think it takes a conscientious and empathic person to respond as politely and informatively as you did. Especially when replying to spam sent by on of those Facebook evildoers. :P

    Once again, well done sir!

    • http://vubui.com vubui

      Thanks Darryl! It certainly isn’t easy to nicely offer advice or help to someone who is doing something annoying… something that you know is wrong… and most of the time it would likely go ignored.

      This just happened to be the right case at the right time… in a good way. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect to make it a good example, either.

  • http://www.thebeautifulmess.com/blog Candice

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this subject! It even includes people mass inviting you to take quizzes and all of the other useless games they have on FB. It’s one thing if it’s coming from people who know me, but 75% of my friends are followers of my photography send them to me, and I do not know them personally. Thanks for the post! We love reading your stuff!

    • http://vubui.com/ vubui

      Thanks Candice, I’m very happy that you enjoy what we write here! :)

      A year or so ago I started blocking every application invite that came my way… and now I almost never get any. It doesn’t matter who it is from… none of them are actually all that useful… I just block them once and that app can never send me anything again.

      The truth is that most people will never even know that you blocked the app or that you didn’t accept the request. The apps themselves are written in a way to encourage sharing and propagation, when people send you in invite they are usually sending out like 50 invites all at once… so the one you get will not really be noticed.

      That is, of course, unless it was sent personally from one of your true friends… but like I said… I just have a policy to block every single one of them. It works for me!

  • http://www.thebeautifulmess.com/blog Candice

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this subject! It even includes people mass inviting you to take quizzes and all of the other useless games they have on FB. It’s one thing if it’s coming from people who know me, but 75% of my friends are followers of my photography send them to me, and I do not know them personally. Thanks for the post! We love reading your stuff!

    • http://vubui.com vubui

      Thanks Candice, I’m very happy that you enjoy what we write here! :)

      A year or so ago I started blocking every application invite that came my way… and now I almost never get any. It doesn’t matter who it is from… none of them are actually all that useful… I just block them once and that app can never send me anything again.

      The truth is that most people will never even know that you blocked the app or that you didn’t accept the request. The apps themselves are written in a way to encourage sharing and propagation, when people send you in invite they are usually sending out like 50 invites all at once… so the one you get will not really be noticed.

      That is, of course, unless it was sent personally from one of your true friends… but like I said… I just have a policy to block every single one of them. It works for me!

  • http://newsphotojournalist.wordpress.com/ Spencer T

    Thanks for posting that, more people need to realize that and learn web etiquette. With the explosion of all the new media there seems to be a loss to some degree of how we communicate to each other politely and with courtesy. I liked how professionally you responded as well, great example to us all.

    • http://vubui.com/ vubui

      Thanks for your kind words, Spencer!

      I agree that we definitely are losing the ability or at least the desire to communicate effectively, politely and with courtesy. The anonymity of the internet, even when using your real face and name… makes it all too easy to do whatever you want without thinking if the consequences… or perhaps just without caring about them.

      Not all is lost… yet. But we need to make a conscious effort or we’ll all be lost in the apathetic mess that is internet communication.

  • http://newsphotojournalist.wordpress.com Spencer T

    Thanks for posting that, more people need to realize that and learn web etiquette. With the explosion of all the new media there seems to be a loss to some degree of how we communicate to each other politely and with courtesy. I liked how professionally you responded as well, great example to us all.

    • http://vubui.com vubui

      Thanks for your kind words, Spencer!

      I agree that we definitely are losing the ability or at least the desire to communicate effectively, politely and with courtesy. The anonymity of the internet, even when using your real face and name… makes it all too easy to do whatever you want without thinking if the consequences… or perhaps just without caring about them.

      Not all is lost… yet. But we need to make a conscious effort or we’ll all be lost in the apathetic mess that is internet communication.

  • http://www.manaloempire.com/ Lucy M

    Wow…great stuff! I’m still learning all of the in’s and out’s of everything. Yes, I do know how to use a computer…but I’m still learning all of the internet etiquette stuff… LOL

    Way to go Vu!

    • http://vubui.com/ vubui

      Hahaha well good to know we are able to help at least a little. ;)

  • http://www.manaloempire.com Lucy M

    Wow…great stuff! I’m still learning all of the in’s and out’s of everything. Yes, I do know how to use a computer…but I’m still learning all of the internet etiquette stuff… LOL

    Way to go Vu!

    • http://vubui.com vubui

      Hahaha well good to know we are able to help at least a little. ;)

  • steve

    Facebook etiquette?? Check out this site http://www.lamebook.com , it’s where
    all the poor etiquette from facebook ends up!

    • http://vubui.com/ vubui

      Wow Steve that site makes me sad for mankind! But then again makind in general makes me sad for mankind. ;)

  • steve

    Facebook etiquette?? Check out this site http://www.lamebook.com , it’s where
    all the poor etiquette from facebook ends up!

    • http://vubui.com vubui

      Wow Steve that site makes me sad for mankind! But then again makind in general makes me sad for mankind. ;)

  • jj

    I just accidentally sent one of those spam emails -because I was joining Goodreads (a reading/book review network), and it pulled all my Hotmail account contacts and I accidentally pushed “send”!

    Aack. What should I do? Nothing? The message they’ll be getting contains just a banal little message about my wanting to share readings lists, etc. The things is, there are people on my contacts list that should be deleted – professors, relatives of ex husband, etc. I feel humiliated! Should I just assume they will assume it was a mistake?

    • http://vubui.com/ vubui

      I’m going to have to say that most people will assume it was on purpose. Most people don’t really understand how these things work and figure that if they get an email from you… that you intended to send it and that you chose them specifically to send it to.

      Your situation kinda sucks… but the best thing to do is probably to just let it be… and only respond to anyone who actually responds to you. You probably want to delete any unnecessary contacts from your contact list though, just in case! :)

      • jj

        Thanks for the quick response! Well, I’m trying not to care – what can I do anyway? – and have edited my contact list! I did use a username on Goodreads that is not remotely like my name, so I’m hoping some will assume my account got hacked or that it was unintentional.

  • jj

    I just accidentally sent one of those spam emails -because I was joining Goodreads (a reading/book review network), and it pulled all my Hotmail account contacts and I accidentally pushed “send”!

    Aack. What should I do? Nothing? The message they’ll be getting contains just a banal little message about my wanting to share readings lists, etc. The things is, there are people on my contacts list that should be deleted – professors, relatives of ex husband, etc. I feel humiliated! Should I just assume they will assume it was a mistake?

    • http://vubui.com vubui

      I’m going to have to say that most people will assume it was on purpose. Most people don’t really understand how these things work and figure that if they get an email from you… that you intended to send it and that you chose them specifically to send it to.

      Your situation kinda sucks… but the best thing to do is probably to just let it be… and only respond to anyone who actually responds to you. You probably want to delete any unnecessary contacts from your contact list though, just in case! :)

      • jj

        Thanks for the quick response! Well, I’m trying not to care – what can I do anyway? – and have edited my contact list! I did use a username on Goodreads that is not remotely like my name, so I’m hoping some will assume my account got hacked or that it was unintentional.

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