Want to send a message for only one other person to see? Meta Platforms’ Messenger app — originally called Facebook Chat — lets you do just that. Messenger used to offer Vanish Mode to automatically delete messages, but it recently discontinued the feature. Now, the secret conversation mode allows users to send end-to-end encrypted photos, videos and texts. You can also set messages to auto-delete after a specified time period.
What Was Vanish Mode on Messenger?
Introduced in 2020, Vanish Mode allowed users to swipe up on a conversation to start a secret chat. As soon as the conversation ended, any texts, photos or videos users sent or received in Vanish Mode would disappear.
Privacy wasn’t guaranteed — people could still take screenshots of a conversation. However, the app would notify users if the person they were talking to took a screenshot at any point.
Only Facebook friends could use Vanish Mode with each other. This feature helped prevent cyberbullying and harassment.
How to Have a Secret Chat on Messenger
Messenger is the third most popular messaging app in the world, with 931 million monthly users. Vanish Mode may have vanished into thin air, but you can still use Messenger to plan a surprise party for that snooping friend who loves to check your phone. Here’s how:
- Ensure that you and the person you want to message have Facebook accounts. It’s no problem if you deactivated your Facebook account — you can still use Messenger. But if you deleted your account or didn’t make one in the first place, then you’ll need to create an account.
- Open the Messenger app.
- Tap the name of the person you want to message. This action should open up the chat.
- Once inside the chat, tap on the person’s name at the top of the screen.
- Scroll down.
- Tap on Go to secret conversation.
Messenger will open a new chat with a padlock symbol next to the person’s name. This icon means the chat is encrypted.
How to Set Disappearing Messages
Here’s how to make photos, texts and videos self-destruct after a specified time:
- Open a secret chat.
- Tap on the person’s name at the top.
- Scroll down and tap on Disappearing messages.
- Set a timeframe between five seconds and 24 hours.
Now, when you send a message in your secret chat, it will auto-delete for both you and the person who received it. This is what Vanish Mode on Messenger used to do.
The exception is that if you turn on the “Save photos & videos you receive” option, these media will automatically download to your phone’s camera roll. Likewise, if the person you’re chatting with turns on this option, their phone’s camera roll will automatically save any photos or videos you send.
Remember that both you and the recipient can also take screenshots. Messenger will display the message, “You took a screenshot” if you snap a photo of the conversation. You and the recipient can both see this message.
Pros and Cons of Secret Conversations
There’s an extra layer of security and protection in an encrypted chat, preventing hackers from viewing it. That’s useful for privacy reasons.
Let’s say you want to send sensitive information — such as your credit card PIN — to your partner, who is using your card to buy groceries. A hacker who intercepts an unencrypted chat could steal this private data. Encryption means that even if someone intercepts your messages, they won’t be able to decipher them. Only you have the key to decode an encrypted message.
The auto-delete feature is also useful for protecting your data. It gives you just enough time to take a screenshot of a message or write the information down, but provides very little time for someone looking over your shoulder to see the message.
On the other hand, the timed messages feature can make it easier to cyberbully or harass people, as it makes it harder to take a screenshot in time and leaves no trace of the interaction. You should only use the secret message function with people you trust.
How to Report Encrypted Chats
If you see something that goes against Facebook’s community standards, you can report it. Meta’s Help Team is able to decrypt and review recent messages, even those that have recently disappeared. Here’s how:
- Launch the Messenger app.
- Open the chat you want to report.
- At the top of the screen, tap on the person’s name.
- Scroll down and tap Something’s Wrong.
- Tap on any categories that fit the problem you want to report.
- If the problem doesn’t fit within any of the given categories, select Other. This will bring up several other categories, including technical issues, spam, false information or a possible hack. If your problem still doesn’t fit in the specified categories, tap on Something else.
- Tap Send feedback to report the issue.
How to Block Someone on Messenger
If someone is bothering you over the Messenger app but they aren’t violating the community standards, you can still block them. Here’s how:
- Open Messenger.
- Swipe left on the conversation with the person you want to block.
- Tap More.
- Select Block.
Alternatively, you can:
- Open the conversation you were having with the person you want to block.
- Tap on their name at the top of the screen.
- Scroll down.
- Under Privacy & support, select Block.
From here, you can either block the person’s messages and calls or block them on Facebook. Blocking the person’s messages and calls means you can still see their Facebook account, and they can also see you in group chats. However, they won’t be able to message or call you in the Messenger app.
If you block the person’s Facebook account, they won’t be able to see your profile, call you or message you anymore.
Making the Most of Secret Chats
Although Vanish Mode on Messenger is no longer supported, you can still replicate the experience by turning on secret conversations and using timed messages. This end-to-end encrypted chat function makes it harder for prying eyes to intercept your messages, providing extra security on the Messenger app.
However, keep in mind that it isn’t foolproof, and you still shouldn’t send anything you wouldn’t mind being shared.
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