Several years ago I successfully purged all my Facebook email notifications. But recently they came back in full force, as if someone raised them from the dead. For example, I just received this notification from Facebook:
Let’s unsubscribe. Hmm. I don’t remember “Recent checkins from your friends” being a thing, and I definitely didn’t subscribe to it.
Now let’s dig up this notification in Facebook Notification Settings:
“Recent checkins from your friends” doesn’t exist under the Email section at all. Apparently this notification is something you’re not supposed to control unless you discover the hidden path to its setting via the email. Or maybe this is part of “Important notifications about you or activity you’ve missed”? Who knows. "Live Video" and "Offer" definitely weren’t there before.
I also had the same problem with in-app notifications. These started to show up a few months ago:
Why don’t my friends’ activities stay in the News Feed? There is also no way to turn these notifications off:
I think these notifications are rolled out with Facebook’s push to showcase more friends and family content. These notifications help offset the lost usage from removing clickbait content. They also caused me to stop looking at Facebook’s in-app notifications completely, even if that meant I’ll miss something important like event invites.
adjective- technically dead but still animate.
― Oxford English Dictionary
People in tech know the cost to creating notifications is practically zero, so they keep raising notifications from the dead by inventing new ones and retargeting you. I get the need to drive metrics, and notification is a great way to drive DAUs. They just need to be done in a way that’s transparent, with easy opt-out for users. There are laws protecting consumers from direct mail and email spam 1. The platforms are also giving users more control 2. But we don’t do enough as product owners. If we don’t curb our enthusiasm and let notification volume continue to grow, we’ll only invite more GDPR-esque regulation, and users will turn us off.
P.S. So I turn off my screen, but the physical world isn’t any better. Have you noticed how every time you move, all the physical mail you unsubscribed before, like RedPlum coupons, are in your inbox again? There are companies selling physical address databases for marketing, and I’m pretty certain the USPS Change of Address service flips the “fresh” flag on an address, causing a bunch of junk mail to show up for the “current resident”.
MailChimp does a great job in this area. They provide plenty of guidance. They even build software smarts into their product to help you do the right thing, such as by always inserting an unsubscribe link. ↩
One of my favorite features in iOS 12 is the ability to turn off notifications as you see them, instead of wading through the ever-expanding Settings app. ↩
I’m building infrastructure that builds the next generation of FinTech companies at Belvo. This blog is where I share my personal thoughts.
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