Facebook is in an unrivalled position as the owner of the two most popular messaging apps on the market.
Initially growing out of the chat function on the Facebook website, Messenger has since become an established app in its own right. A number of new features have been added in recent years, so here’s our guide to getting the most out of them.
Turn on Dark Mode
Dark mode was one of Facebook Messenger’s most requested features, and it was finally added in April 2019. To activate, just tap your profile picture in the top left of the screen, where you’ll see a toggle for Dark Mode. This is independent from your phone’s operating system for the most part, so won’t transition between light and dark modes throughout the day.
Stop Messenger saying you’re online
Facebook Messenger has a nasty habit of saying you’re online even when you’re not. In effect it just means you’re contactable, but it can lead to some awkward conversations.
You can stop this behaviour by launching Messenger, tapping your profile icon at the top left, and selecting Active Status under Profile. If you don’t want to appear online, slide the toggle next to ‘Show when you’re active’. This means you won’t ever appear active to friends, although you will have to individually set it for each device you use Messenger on.
Turn off Chat Heads
When you receive a Facebook message your contact’s profile picture appears in a circle onscreen, and remains there until you dismiss it, even if you’ve replied to the message. This can be particularly irritating when you’re watching a video or playing a game, but it is possible to turn off the chat heads.
Launch Messenger, tap on your profile icon, then scroll down to and tap the toggle next to Chat Heads. If Chat Heads is currently switched off and you want to turn it on, you may find that you need to enable a permission for apps to display over other media first in your phone’s Settings menu.
Use Facebook Messenger for text messages
With multiple messaging apps on your phone keeping tabs on all your conversations can be tricky, but Messenger lets you see both SMS and Messenger messages in one place.
Launch the app, tap your profile icon, scroll down to and select SMS, then slide the toggle next to Off. SMS conversations will be visible only in the app, not on your PC.
If you’re downloading the app for the first time, you’ll probably be prompted to set Messenger as your default SMS app. Do note that this will replace whatever you use normally.
Make group video calls
To make a group video call just open a group conversation and tap the phone icon at the top of the screen – it’s that easy.
If you’d like to start a call with people who aren’t in an existing group, you’ll need to create one. Just tap the compose button in the top right of the screen to get started.
Follow our step-by-step guide which explains how to set up Messenger groups and do group video calls.
Access your message requests
If you’re not friends with someone on Messenger and they send you a message it won’t appear in your inbox and you may not even get a notification.
To see if you have any messages you didn’t know about, launch the app, tap your Profile picture and choose Message requests.
It is possible to chat to people on Messenger without having them as friends on Facebook.
Have a secret conversation
You’re probably the only person who has access to your Messenger account, but what if you want to take privacy a step further?
Secret conversations are end-to-end encrypted (like on WhatsApp), meaning only the sender and receiver can see the messages. They are unreadable to third parties (in this case Facebook), so provide that extra level of security.
You also have the option to create disappearing messages, but these can still be reported after they’re seemingly gone forever.
To start a secret conversation, go into any of your existing groups and tap the i button in the top right corner. Here you’ll see an option which says ‘Go to secret conversation’, which creates a separate area to chat.
To change any settings, tap your profile picture and scroll down to ‘Secret conversations’. You can toggle it on and off here, as well as check which devices are currently logged in.
Quickly add contacts on Messenger
Facebook Messenger supports a QR code feature that lets you quickly find new accounts or share your own. Launch the app, tap your profile icon, then select your profile image at the top of the screen.
There are two tabs here: Scan code allows you to scan someone else’s account code; My code lets you share your own. You can also use the Share icon at the top right to send that code via WhatsApp, Gmail or other apps.
Mute chat notifications
If someone or a group of people is bombarding you with messages and you really don’t need the interruption, it’s easy to mute the chat notifications. Open the conversation or group conversation, tap the information icon at the top right, then select the Mute button. You’ll get to choose how long the chat is muted, from 15 minutes to 24 hours or simply until you turn it back on.
Share your location
It’s easy to share your location with any of your friends for up to an hour, which may be helpful if you’re keeping tabs on a child or you’re meeting up and don’t know exactly where to find each other. Tap the four dots icon to the side of the text field in any conversation, then select Location and Share your location.
To stop sharing your location at any time just return to the message and tap Stop Sharing.
Send Snapchat-style photos
Facebook Messenger lets you create and send Snapchat-style photos to your friends. To use the feature, open a conversation and tap the camera icon.
You’ll see various Snapchat-esque filters running across the bottom of the screen, but a key difference here is you don’t need to long-press your face first in order to activate them. You can also tap the art palette icon at the top right to add doodles, text and emoji.
Now experiment to compose your pic. Tap the circular button at the bottom of the screen to take a photo, or long-press for a video.
Add a Facebook Messenger Story
Facebook has gone the same way as Instagram and WhatsApp (both of which are owned by the social network) and added a Snapchat Stories clone to Messenger, allowing you to share snaps with your friends that are deleted after 24 hours.
To create a story, launch the app and select the large + icon above Your story, or tap the camera icon at the top right.
Your story, along with those of your friends, will be displayed at the top of the Messenger app.
Stop Facebook Messenger automatically saving sent photos
Gone are the days that tiny device storage was a major issue, but those with budget phones or who like to take a lot of photos can still run into issues. Or maybe you just don’t want every selfie you send over Messenger saved to your phone’s Gallery.
To turn off Messenger’s ability to save photos and other media captured within the app to your phone launch the app, tap your profile icon, then scroll down to and select Photos & Media. Ensure that Save on capture is set to Off.
Big or little thumbs-up?
Facebook introduced the ability to send your friends a thumbs up in-chat quite some time ago, ideal for letting someone know you’ve seen a message or showing your enthusiasm for a particular subject.
However, not many people know that you can change the size of the thumbs-up icon – just tap and hold the thumbs-up button to see the size of the logo increase.
If someone you know is celebrating a birthday or other event, you can now send them a message that sees balloons fly up the screen.
To do so, simply open the chat conversation with your particular friend and send them a balloon emoji. When they open the message the balloons will be set free.
Give your friends nicknames
Facebook is a great way for old friends to reconnect, which is why Facebook displays your full name. The issue with this is that, as you’re probably aware, groups of friends usually have hilarious (and embarrassing) nicknames for each other. Luckily, there’s a way to give your friends nicknames that’ll be displayed instead of their full names in-chat.
Open a conversation with the person you want to give a nickname to, then tap the information icon at the top right of the screen. Select nicknames, then tap on the contact’s name to assign them a nickname. Press Set to save.
While it was originally introduced for Euro 2016, Facebook users can still play a cool football (or soccer) game within Messenger, similar in design to the basketball game also available for the app (below).
To begin a game of Keepy Up with your friend, send them a football emoji. Then just tap it to start the game. Keep tapping the football to stop it touching the ground, and you’ll find it gets harder the further your progress.
Did you know you could also play basketball without even having to leave the app? It’s one of many activities that are supported within the app, and is quite simple to activate and play. Simply send a friend a Basketball emoji and tap on the message to activate the game.
The game is simple to play too – swipe the basketball towards the hoop and for every ball you get through the hoop, you get a point. You’re free to play until you miss, then your score is saved and sent to your friend as a challenge. It’s fun, free and a nice way to pass the time.
Chess is another in-app game in Messenger, though it takes more effort to set up. Type @fbchess play in-chat and a board should appear, prompting your friend (or foe) to go first.
You can select pieces using K for the king, Q for the queen, N for the knight, R for rook or P for the pawn. Once you’ve selected your piece, add the letter and number representing the space you want to move it to.
For example, you’d type @fbchess Kd3 to move your King to D3. Enjoy!
Send a GIF
It seems that Millennials communicate though GIFs so it was only natural that Facebook would implement a way to send hilarious GIFs to your Facebook friends, summing up your reaction to a message in a humorous way.
Just tap the emoji icon in the text field in any conversation, then select the GIF field. You can use the search bar to find specific GIFs.
React to messages
The Facebook Messenger app boasts the ability to add ‘Reactions’ to incoming messages, in the same way that users can react to other users Facebook statuses with a variety of emoji, like a thumbs-up, a laughing face or, if it’s a bad message, an angry face. It allows users to quickly react to an incoming message without needing to type out a response.
To add a reaction to an incoming message on Facebook Messenger, tap the emoji+ symbol below and select your desired emoji.
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