Alex O'Brien


How to keep your Facebook messages private

How to keep your Facebook messages private

Lisa Du is director of ReadyTechGo, a service that helps people gain the confidence and skills to embrace modern technology.

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I love it because it allows me to stay connected to the people I’m close to, communicate easily with pretty much anyone, and share my happiest moments in life to a huge audience of people all at once. I also see a lot of cute dog videos on there, which is great.

But what isn’t so great about Facebook is that I always need to be extra careful I don’t accidentally share something I don’t want to.

Public vs. Private: Do you know the difference?

The thing with Facebook is that nothing you do is anonymous. It is literally an online profile of yourself - your name, your photos, and your life exposed for everyone to see. So it’s important that you only share the things that you want to, because if you don’t... that will be on your name forever!

One common mistake that people make is not being able to distinguish between writing a post and private messaging. People do mistakenly type private messages into the post section instead, and this message gets published for all to see.

Here’s the distinction, so that you don’t make the same slip up.

Making a public post

What a lot of people do is go onto a friend’s profile page and try to communicate with them from there. When you’re on someone’s profile, you’ll see this at the top:

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If you type a message into “Write something to [Friend’s Name]”, and then click “Post”, your friend will receive a notification and see this message on their wall.

However, what some people don’t realise is that this message is also published for all to see. Anyone who goes onto your friend’s profile will see this on your friend’s wall. In addition, it will also appear on people’s Newsfeed - anyone who is on your Friends List will see this post on their Home page!

This message you’ve written for your friend will be public. Only when you intend for others to see what you write to your friend (for example, if you want to wish them a Happy Birthday) do you use this feature to communicate with them.

Sending a private message

On your Newsfeed page, you’ll see the icon for private messaging on the top right-hand corner of the screen. If you click on this icon, you will be able to send private messages. These are messages that can only be seen by one person - the person you’re messaging.

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Once you click on this icon, a drop-down will appear. A list of names will appear in the drop-down. These are the people whom you have sent private messages to before.

Click on the name of the person you would like to message, and their chat will appear at the bottom of your screen.

Simply type your messages into this chat and press Enter on your keyboard. Now you’re able to communicate with this person privately. None of what you say will be publicly published online.

If you want to send a message to someone who doesn’t appear in the drop-down, click on “New Message” and select them from your Friends List.

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Hopefully you found this distinction between making a post and sending a private message helpful, because one is a public announcement, and the other is a private conversation. Happy messaging!

Are you worried about your privacy on Facebook? Do you prefer commenting on your friend’s Facebook wall or through private message? Share your reasons with us in the comments below. 

Related links:

Back to basics: How to upload photos to Facebook

How to save articles on Facebook to read later

What you need to know about Facebook's new reaction buttons