Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

Facebook Messages: Where Things Go To Die

with 3 comments

I have a co-authored article up over at In the Library with the Lead Pipe about email management. We would love to hear more about your experience with email and your strategies for dealing with messages in your inbox!

Lindsay and I didn’t really delve into other types of message management—the article is about standard email inboxes. But there are messaging/inbox capabilities built into many social media tools these days. On Twitter you can send someone a Direct Message (DM), a private tweet that acts like a limited character email message. DMs aren’t a problem for me because I really only check them when I specifically ask someone to DM me. Otherwise it’s not even on my radar and I don’t forward these messages to any other account or device. The limited scope has helped me handle my DM inbox.

facebook notifications

Facebook messages are a different story. Facebook messages, for me, are where things go to die. True story. I don’t mind Facebook chat… if I am online, definitely message me in real-time. But for some reason, I have not been able to incorporate the Facebook inbox into my normal flow of checking and responding. For fun stuff with my friends it’s fine because there is no real pressure to reply right away. But I do get a number of Facebook messages related to library/work stuff. Those are the messages that always seem to fall through the cracks. I’m not really sure why this is but I have some ideas:

  • I have a gut reaction to the little red numbers that pop up for notifications, messages, and friend requests, so I click on my messages (but often don’t read them right away) just to get that alert to go away. Seeing it there makes me kind of anxious. Am I the only one or do other people feel this way? Then, I forget that there are new messages and it could be days (weeks?) before I get around to reading them.
  • To a certain extent, I see Facebook as more of a social/fun site than a tool I conduct work within. It’s great for some aspects of work—networking with other librarians, building your online identity, promoting different events, engaging through your institutional page, etc. I go to Facebook to learn things and to connect but it’s pretty casual.

I just always seem to forget about messages that are living in Facebook. I see them and then I forget about them. Maybe this is because I really do use my email inbox as a to-do list (although I’m trying to break that habit) and Facebook just seems more… fleeting? It might come down to having too many places to check for messages. Perhaps it’s not email that is overwhelming me, but multiple inboxes? There are so many different places where my response is required:

  1. Personal email
  2. Work email (including accounts associated with research help, outreach, and the renovation)
  3. Twitter (personal feed + DMs; library feed + DMs)
  4. Facebook (personal wall + messages; library wall + messages)
  5. Blog comments (personal + Lead Pipe)
  6. Voice mail (work + personal)
  7. Text messages
  8. Chat (Facebook + GChat)

I’m probably forgetting some. It’s helpful for me to list these out so that I can think about making a plan for managing my communication. When I don’t reply, people typically reach out to me through another channel but I’m sure I miss people (and opportunities). I want to apologize to anyone whose Facebook message I have missed—it’s nothing personal! And despite this angst, I have contacted people via Facebook message regarding library/work stuff. So, I have not been good at setting expectations for where different type of communication should take place.

This is something I want to reflect more on and potentially share my communication preferences with everyone. I think this would lower my stress and alleviate frustration for people who might not be receiving a timely response. How do you cope with multiple message streams? Any suggestions for me? Feel free to share here or over at Lead Pipe!


Written by Erin Dorney

November 5, 2012 at 9:43 AM

3 Responses

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  1. I know that notification anxiety. Same thing happens when I see the tab in my browser like this: Twitter (176). So, in order to make the notifications go away, I click and click off so I don’t see that popup, therefore, fb msgs get lost for me, too. I think the only thing I consistently get back to are texts, blog comments, personal emails, library twitter, and gchats. Anything in my personal social media things that aren’t publicly viewed usually get lost.


    November 5, 2012 at 11:25 AM

  2. This is a good and useful discussion to have. I’m always interested in how others manage their streams as well. For me, like you, my email inbox is (to an extent) my To Do list, even though I know best practices say it shouldn’t be. But it is in that, anything that *requires* a response from me, in any of my streams/online presences, stays in my inbox until I respond to it, then I get to Archive it (always a great feeling). This means FB messages, blog comments left for me, and comments throughout Facebook all trigger email notifications to my Gmail account (crazy, I know). But this way I can save something in that inbox until I’m ready to respond to it. It’s also the reason that FB’s glitchiness where not every FB message to me generates an email notification drives me crazy (some do, others don’t, and I have no idea why). But then again, I don’t get a ton of FB message mail…maybe 1-5 per day, and all are relevant to a current conversation I am having so I can usually respond pretty quickly (both personal messages and professional library-related ones). Oh, and my work and personal email all comes to my personal email account (Gmail, o’course) and I have a complex labeling system set up to manage that flow as well. The key for me is, everything winds up in *one* place, and usually as individual notifications for each item asking my attention, so I can leave something read but in the inbox as a reminder to reply when I’m able to.

    And, I am with both of you re: the little red notification bubbles on FB. I always click on the notification tab to make them go away–can’t handle them looking at me while I’m browsing. 🙂

    Donna Witek

    November 5, 2012 at 7:41 PM

  3. @ Amy – I think you hit on a good point there – anything in personal social media that isn’t public gets lost. That is what happens to me too. Maybe because those tools were created to be public and the private messaging capabilities conflict or aren’t as robust as email… or aren’t as easily integrated into our existing practices? I guess what I’m trying to say is that maybe “they” make private social media messages difficult on purpose because they want everything to ideally be public? Although they can harvest your data just as easily in private messages as public messages so money wouldn’t be the driver there… interesting to think about. Thanks for the comment!

    @ Donna – Thanks for the comment! Glad it’s not just me 🙂 I like the idea of everything going to one place. It also scares me – what happens when Gmail breaks?

    Erin Dorney

    November 6, 2012 at 1:11 PM

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