Like it or not, Facebook Messenger can be inescapable, especially if your friends and family have settled on the app as their main messaging service. I know folks who have retained Facebook accounts solely to continue using Messenger. But even if you’re all in with Facebook with no qualms whatsoever, there are a few Messenger features to know about to get the most out of the service while also protecting your privacy.
If you don’t want people to see whether you’re online—and how long it’s been since you last logged on—just tap on your profile photo in the top left of the Messenger app and select Active Status to turn it off. Those profile settings are also where you can activate Dark Mode, which will give your eyes a break while you’re chatting.
From Settings, you can customize who is allowed to message you. Tap Privacy and then Message Delivery to allow all of your Facebook friends to message you, just friends who have your phone number, etc. Under Preferences, select Phone Contacts and turn off Messenger’s ability to pull in everyone in your phone’s address book. This prevents Facebook from having data on people who might not want the company to know anything about them, and is also just a good practice in general.
If you want to make Messenger even more private, you can activate end-to-end encryption and disappearing messages by tapping on a contact’s name in a chat and selecting Turn on Secret Conversations. Swiping up on a conversation will enable Vanish Mode which won’t encrypt your messages but will cause them to disappear when you exit the conversation. You’ll still receive a notification if your contact screenshots messages while in Vanish Mode (or vice versa), so, if it must be said: Don’t use it to be creepy.