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By Thomas Germain/Consumer Reports
Messaging is a core part of social media, whether you’re chatting with Facebook friends or responding to comments on your latest Instagram story. Facebook Messenger is one of the main ways some friends keep in touch.
But the Message button on your profile is also an easy way for strangers to contact you. If you don’t like it that, some new privacy settings make it easy to control who messages you on Facebook and Instagram, and how those messages show up.
First, here’s a little background. (Or jump straight to the instructions, if you prefer.)
People you’re friends with on Facebook or people you follow on Instagram can get in touch anytime. When they do, their messages show up in your chats list and you’ll get a notification, unless you’ve changed your settings. The other person can see whether or not you’ve opened their messages.
By default, messages from just about everyone else get sent to a “requests” folder.
Requests are different because you can read the message and the other person won’t know you’ve seen it unless you hit “accept.” That gives you a little preview before you decide to open up a dialog.
You won’t get notifications about message requests. In fact, you may have a backlog of requests you didn’t even know about.
To check for requests on the Facebook Messenger app, tap your profile in the top left and select “Message Requests.” On the Facebook website, find a link to the folder by clicking the three-dot menu icon in the top of the chat window. Instagram message requests show up as a tab in the chat window.
The latest privacy setting updates break potential connections into a few categories, such as friends of friends or people you’re connected to on Facebook but not Instagram. You can choose how these different categories of people contact you.
First, you can open the floodgates and have all the messages show up as regular chats. Or you can continue having the messages sent to the requests folder. If you’d rather be unreachable, you can also chose not to receive requests all.
For people you have no connection to, the only option is to use the requests folder or to decline to be contacted at all.
How To Find The Settings
The settings show up in different places depending on which app you’re using.
On Facebook: Open the chat window in the top right corner > Click the three-dot menu icon near the top > Message delivery settings > Under “How You Get Message Requests,” select the various potential connections and choose how you want to be contacted.
(Those instructions are for the Facebook website. The steps are similar in the app.)
On the Facebook Messenger App: Tap your profile photo in the top left > Privacy > Message Delivery > Choose how you want to be contacted.
On Instagram: Go to your profile by tapping the icon in the bottom right > Tap the menu icon with three stacked lines in the top right > Hit the settings button at the bottom > Privacy > Messages > Choose how you want to be contacted.
How To Block, Mute, Or ‘Ignore’ Messages
Of course, you might also want to stop hearing from people you are connected with on Facebook or Instagram. It’s easy to put a lid on messages you’re tired of by muting notifications for a certain chat. You can also ignore or block someone.
People you mute will still be able to send you messages; you just won’t get notifications. Choose ignore, and their messages will get sent to a spam folder. If you block someone, they won’t be able to contact you at all. You can choose to block just their messages, or you can block their entire account, which cuts off all contact and unfriends them.
On Instagram the options are different. You can block someone’s account or “restrict” them, which hides their comments on your posts from other users and sends their messages to your requests folder.
No matter which method you choose, the other person won’t be notified.
On Facebook: Open a chat with the person > Click their name in the top left > Choose “Mute conversation,” “Ignore messages,” or “Block.”
(Those instructions are for a web browser. You can also block someone by going to their page in the app.)
On Facebook Messenger: Open a chat with the person > Click the “i” icon in the top right > Choose “Mute,” “Ignore Messages,” or “Block.”
On Instagram: Navigate to the person’s profile > Click the three-dot icon in the top right > Choose “Restrict” or “Block.”
Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit testing and advocacy organization. Since 1936, we have provided unbiased, evidence-based information and advocated to protect the rights and safety of consumers. Sign up for a free CR newsletter to get expert insights delivered to your inbox. This article was originally published by Consumer Reports on April 27, 2021.