Are You Taking Friendly Fire? 3 Tips To Stop Spam From Friends

“Help this abused puppy! Every time someone shares this photo, the Humane Society will donate $1 to help this miserable puppy! Open your hearts! Sharing takes just one click!!!”

Sounds familiar? We all get spam from time to time, it can’t be helped. But when it’s our own friends that send this spam our way, things can get sticky. Knowingly or unknowingly, much of the spam we receive (that does not get filtered out automatically) comes from people we know. People you can’t or don’t want to block, mark as spam, unfriend or unfollow. So what do you do to deal with it?

Decide What’s Spam For You

There are many sorts of spam. While some is spam no matter how you look at it, other things may amuse one person and irritate another. Before you can handle your spamming friend or friends, it’s important to differentiate between the different kinds of spam, and decide what is spam for you. Spam consists of but is not limited to…

  • Forwarded emails with malware, a virus or a scam (usually accompanied by a cover story and a link or file)
  • Social media spam that contains malicious links that spread themselves
  • Tagging spam (someone tags you and 300 other people in a picture — mainly on Facebook)
  • Mention spam (mentioning you on things that have nothing to do with you)
  • False warnings or requests, whether by email or on social networks (Facebook will cost money soon!!!, retweet this to help this girl!!!, etc.)
  • Forwarded emails with cute pictures/presentations/videos/stories/chain letters
  • Recurring social media posts about products/giveaways/services/websites/games

There are, of course, many other types of spam you may encounter. As you can see, though, this list consists of a good mix between things everyone regards as spam and things only some regard as spam. The first two are always spam, no matter how you look at it, while the last two may be good fun for many of your friends.

When choosing an action after receiving spam from a friend, you should react according to the type of spam they’ve sent you. Otherwise, you may end up hurting someone’s feelings, and no one wants that.

Friendly Notes & Reminders

Is a friend sending you 5 funny cat presentations a day? Is your friend playing endless Facebook games which keep sending you notifications? Does your friend habitually tag you in pictures of lost dogs and cats? There’s a good chance your friend doesn’t know how annoying he/she is being. Most likely, they think they’re doing you a favor.

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I’ve seen many cases in which people get fed up and start threatening. Understandable, but not very efficient.


If you feel like you’re being drowned in “friendly spam” of this kind, the first thing to do is take a deep breath. Done? Good. Now look at the spam, where are you getting it? Who from? If you’re getting recurring email spam from one particular person, write them a personal email or note telling them that while you love cats, candy, and good luck, it’s distracting you from your work, and you’re using this account for your job. If the spam is being sent to a work email account, you have an even better excuse.

If the spam is getting posted automatically, such as when apps get connected to Facebook, you can always point their attention to it. Maybe they’re just not aware? If it’s the tagging kind of spam, you can ask them nicely to please not tag you in photos if you’re not actually in them, and take care of your side of things.

If the spam comes from a particular person, but is aimed at their entire friends or followers list who for some reason don’t find it offensive, things get trickier. In these cases, you may need to resort to one of the next two solutions.

Educate Your Friends

This is a really important one, and could be the one to solve all (or most) of your spam problems. When you think of it, the vast majority of spam happens when people are unaware or lack specific knowledge. Whether it’s the malicious kind of spam or the annoying kind, no one in their right mind wants to spread false information and malware, or annoy people. If your friends like to annoy you on propose, skip to the next solution. If not, it’s time to educate them.


Does the image above look familiar? How about an email telling you about a sick kid and the dollar he will get for every person you forward this to? What about weird links and tempting messages that go along with them? If you’re online, no matter where, you’ve encountered many such things.


Image via

Contact the spamming friend, and let them know exactly what’s going on. Again, don’t yell and shout, and under no circumstances make them feel stupid. And no, it doesn’t matter whether they’re actually stupid or not. The best way is to tell them something like “Hey, did you know that….” or “Hey, I’ve found out that this is not actually real…”. You can also include a link to the hoax or a similar hoax to prove to them that that’s what it is. This list of Facebook myths is a great place to start.

If it’s the inadvertent kind of spam, such as malware spreading itself, you’ll be doing your friend a huge favor. Let them know that they’re account has been compromised, and that they’re sending off malicious links. You can further help by pointing out that they should never click on weird-looking links. You can point them at websites that can help them check links they’re not sure about, or let them read some tips for avoiding malware.

Some spam is not malicious, just annoying. Here we have intentional spam, such as recurring impersonal tweets about services and giveaways, overshares, chain letters, etc; and unintentional spam of the Candy Crush and Farmville type, or any kind that happens automatically if you don’t know how to turn it off. The second type of spam can also benefit from some educating. Let them know they’re doing it, and tell them how they can avoid it in the future. The first type is trickier, and if a friendly note doesn’t help, you may have to resort to the third and final solution.

Hiding, Blocking & Adjusting

Sometimes there’s just no choice. If you’ve tried telling them about it, tried educating them about it, and tried ignoring it, to no avail, it may be time for some serious action. While I don’t recommend doing this for emails (you never know when they might send something important), when it comes to social networks, there’s sometimes no other way.

Here too, though, there are several levels of action you can take. Start with the most basic things you can do yourself without actually blocking anyone. For Facebook tagging, turn on tag reviews from your privacy settings. This will prevent people from spam tagging you.


Another solution is to hide activity from certain apps, such as games, from your news feed. For any post, click the triangle on the top right for hiding options. For app posts, you’ll get the option to hide all posts from this app. If it’s not an app post, you’ll still be able to hide it, and even tell Facebook if it’s actually spam or just not interesting to you.


On Twitter, you can choose to filter certain types of posts by using third-party tools. If you don’t want to unfollow, but don’t want to hear about cats anymore, you can simply block posts mentioning cats. You can find several ways to do this in this post about Twitter filters.

If someone is sending you many spam emails (not malicious ones), and you can’t persuade them to stop, you can always set up a special label and filter for them, and simply have them skip your inbox. This way they won’t clutter your inbox ever again.

If someone is seriously harassing you, there’s always the option to unfriend, unfollow, delete and block. Use these sparingly, though, because there’s usually no way back. If you care about this person, you may want to look for a better solution. If you don’t, block away.

Help! Phone & SMS Spam!

This is not something you would usually get from friends, but it’s nonetheless a concern for many. If you’re victim to one of these, learn how to stop spam texts forever and deal with phone spam.

How do you deal with “friendly” spam? Do you block people with no reservations? Do you suffer quietly? Share any tips you have.

Image Credit: Daniel Go

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