It was bound to happen.

With a little help from the programmers and usability gurus at Facebook, I spammed my friends, colleagues, business associates, people who’ve considered hiring Outsource Marketing, and everyone else in my Gmail address book that didn’t have a Facebook account yet.

I’m not talking about Facebook application developers making it next to impossible to use the application without inviting friends—Facebook banned that functionality last year after over a million people petitioned the social networking site to end the practice.

No, I’m talking about Facebook.

About once a month, I upload my address book using the Facebook Friend Finder tool to see if any of my friends have joined. If the address they’ve registered with is in the system, I can decide if I want to send a friend request. Facebook’s privacy policy claims they will never contact or use this information, and they’ve been known to keep their word, so I’m okay doing this.

Since Facebook is growing quickly and I know a fair share of folks, I usually find several people I’m happy to see have recently joined. I select them and click okay.

Anyone that uses Facebook knows that that’s when the trouble starts.

Here’s the next screen you’ll see:

The Facebook friend spamming tool

This screen shows all of the people in your address book that don’t have a Facebook account (or at least, they don’t have an account associated with that address).

The screen is similar to the previous one—the one listing the people that do have accounts. All the boxes are pre-checked for you. And the default button is blue, just like the previous form.

I’ve always called this the “Facebook Friend Spamming Tool” because if you aren’t really careful, that’s what you’ll do—spam all your friends that aren’t on Facebook.

I’ve seen this box at least a dozen times, and I always think to myself, “Good thing I was paying attention—I’d hate to hit that.”

Call me a fat-fingered dolt. Call me a dunce. Call me what you will. But I did this today.

I’m not sure who falls for it the most often: The folks that aren’t particularly comfortable with technology or the people that are highly proficient and move from screen to screen at a lightning fast pace.

Facebook wins, you lose

Facebook has surely benefited from this functionality. A lot of people signed up for Facebook after I erroneously sent that invite. Facebook wins.

While I’m happy some of my friends have joined, I’m certain I’ve pissed some folks off. In fact, I’ve already received a message from a person that has referred my firm work that explicitly asked me not to use her address when contacting her through a third party.

You could argue I win too because I’ve reconnected with some people in my address book. That’s only partially true—we would have found each other eventually when our address books meshed in the future.

What should Facebook do?

Should they eliminate this functionality? Uncheck the boxes by default? Add a confirmation message that you indeed want to invite everyone you know to join Facebook?

What’s most responsible?

I’d appreciate your comments.

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Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Patrick,

    I agree with you 200%. The easiest ‘fix’ is illiminate the default all selected feature and remove the ability to select everyone with one click. They could even limit the number of invitations to a dozen or two a day.

    I do just as you. Every month or so I see if anyone has appeared and I do unselect all and scan for a few I think would likely open the email and respond favorably. Most people do not respond to complain. They never open your emails again.

    Michael Eisbrener

  • Patrick,

    Thanks for an important post.

    I agree with Michael. Facebook should at the very least uncheck all the boxes by default AND include a confirmation message to alert you that you may inadvertently spam your friends with invites.

    It’s simply the right thing to do…although I’m not holding my breath that Facebook will make this kind of change anytime soon!

    Barb

  • The irony, of course, is FB’s hostility toward sending the same message to too many people if you don’t happen to be touting Facebook. I got my knuckles rapped for sending a very carefully worded, polite, non-salesy thank-you message to people who friend me. I had two versions, one for people I actually know. Had to create several versions.

    And of course the limit of 20 within an address book category. Sees like quite the case of do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do.

  • Ben Callicoat says:

    This happened to me this morning. Like the author, I’d previously managed to avoid this mistake but was moving a little too quickly and BAM! — my entire Gmail address book (friends, family, colleagues, OPPOSING COUNSEL, judges, etc.) got a Facebook spam from me about looking at my photos!!!!!

    DAMMIT, that pisses me off!

    Facebook – you suck!

  • Nico says:

    MORE importantly, how do I stop it???
    I look like a Facebook opportunist w/my now over 500 “friends” who are, like the last commenter, perhaps folks who were copied on another email that I don’t even know! Every two weeks or so, I get ANOTHER

  • Nico says:

    Sorry, accidentally posted…
    I get ANOTHER email to one of my random non-gmail accounts reminding me that others, too, are getting these unsolicited emails from “Me” asking them to join Facebook and see my pictures…like I would EVER ask even my friends to join for that reason!!!

    ARGH

    How do you STOP it????????????

  • Andrea P. says:

    This happened to me the other night as I was checking to find friends who had joined Facebook. I clicked to the second page and BAM, before I knew it what had happened, I had accidently hit the Invite button. I am so annoyed. I tried deleting the messages from my invite history, and Facebook still sent out another reminder 2 days later. (I received the email on an alias that I am on.) I don’t know if there is anything that can be done to fix this.
    I agree that FB should uncheck these boxes. Tricking people into spamming their entire address box is NOT COOL.

  • Spencer M says:

    Ok, I thought it was just me. I am seething at FB right now. I made this exact mistake 1 month ago tonight — it’s taken me about that long to get over it entirely — but the nightmare is not over — this evening, I was just notified by a friend that they received another email from FB “Reminder: Spencer M invited you to join Facebook…” So the saga continues. Does anyone know how to stop FB from sending the “Reminder” spam emails from FB on “my behalf”?

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