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Simply Stated: How Does Facebook Messenger Work?

This article was created to explain in simple terms how Facebook Messenger works. You can learn about its main features and some of the quick tricks you can learn right now to use it like a pro.

Hello again my friends! Frankie here to talk technology and social media once again. Today it is about the app you might be using every day.

How Does Facebook Messenger Work

Facebook Messenger is a popular messaging program, so you want to be certain that you know all of its primary functions and even some of the tips and tricks to help you master it.

I would suggest taking a few minutes to really read this article so that you understand the app fully.

This is the official chat client for Facebook, and the most heavily used messaging app in the United States. In Europe, it is almost as popular, falling just short of WhatsApp on the global market.

Even though this is one of the most well-known and heavily used applications in the world, there are many reading this article that are not as clear as they would like on how it works or what all it can do.

But as with all things like this, I can be your trusted guide. I can tell you – in simple terms – how Messenger works.

I would pre-warn you, though, that this is going to be a longer article. You can consider this like the manual or Bible of Facebook Messenger. It is going to be worth your while to give it a read though, as you are not going to regret that you did.

I have divided my self-proclaimed Facebook Messenger user manual into two parts:

  1. Core Features
  2. Advanced Functions and Tricks

Ready to become the Messenger ninja you always wanted to be? Let’s not waste any more time.

Facebook Messenger Basics

We can begin with some of the fundamentals of Messenger. Each of these sections has links to further information, and I recommend that you click on each of them to learn a little more.

Let’s begin.

1. What is Facebook Messenger?


Messenger is one of the free apps available on both Android and iOS to chat with friends and family. In many ways, you can draw many similarities against an equally popular WhatsApp program.

One of the primary differences here is the integration of this software with Facebook. It is a must-have for many smartphone users who already frequently and religiously use the social media juggernaut Facebook.

You should check out the article we have written about how to install Messenger for more information.

The use of this application is ideal for streamlining any conversations taking place on Facebook. It is a savvy interface that allows a practical management of all conversations quickly.

If you are interested to learn more about how Messenger works, I only need a few minutes of your free time. Just sit down for a minute and take a load off, dive deep into some of the information I am about to provide.


Frankie’s Take:

In very basic terms, Messenger is an instant messaging application allowing you to exchange crypto messages with other Messenger users for free with an active Facebook account. The app can use both mobile and Wi-Fi data to work.

2. Getting Messenger App on Your Phone

One of the first things that can help you to understand how to use Messenger after downloading it from the App Store or the Google Play Store is merely launching this program on your device.

To accomplish this, just find the icon for the recently downloaded app on your home screen or in the app drawer and tap on it. If it is your first time using this application, it is easy for you to set up.

You are going to be prompted from screen to screen adding in login details and other credentials and moving forward with the Continue button. If you already have the Facebook application logged in on your phone, Messenger can often input these credentials on your behalf.

If you wish to connect Messenger to a different account instead of the primary Facebook account linked to the phone, you can choose to Change Account on the lower portion of the screen to use your mobile phone number or a different Facebook account to log in.

Depending on whatever you choose, you might be asked to perform some additional steps.

If so, just follow the guided procedure on the screen and wait a few minutes for the account configuration to complete.

Once you have finally logged in to the application and have the main screen loaded in front of you, press the OK button (recommended choice) to receive notifications from the app on your device. You can also choose Not Now if you are not interested in this feature.


Frankie’s Take:

You can also use Messenger on your computer without installing any app by logging into the Messenger website with your account information. It is also possible to use Messenger without having a Facebook account.

3. Starting a Conversation with Messenger


Once you have gotten over the hurdles of logging in for the first time, you should get right into the heart of the matter by learning how Messenger works. I suggest starting a conversation with a trusted friend.

Doing this is easy, and only requires you to press on the pencil and paper icon in the top right corner of the page. You can then select a name from a pop-up contact list to choose with whom you want to start your conversation.

Can’t find who you are looking for? Use the search field at the top of the page by typing in the name.

Once you have a contact established, proceed to the box with the preliminary script “Type a message…” at the bottom of the screen. Type out the message you want to send.

Bear in mind that in addition to the simple text you can expect from an instant messaging applications, you can also choose among the buttons on the screen to both take and send photos, already saved images, emoticons, voice recordings, GIFs, and videos.

You can also share your location by clicking on the appropriate indicator, or you can press the “Like” button to approve of messages, people, or other elements of the conversation you are having.

Ready to send the message along? Hit Send on the keyboard to deliver it.


Frankie’s Take:

You might be shocked to learn that Messenger also can allow you to securely send money to a friend.

4. Knowing If Your Message Was Read


Once the message has been sent, the user you have decided to send the message to is notified in real time if they are connected with Facebook, or using Messenger. They can reply by clicking on this message or opening the app.

You can expect the same will happen to you when you are on the receiving end.

It is possible for you to quickly identify when a message you have sent has been read by another user. Next to it, in your device’s screen where the conversation is listed, you will see a blue indicator icon.

If this icon is grey, the message you sent has been received but the user has not read the message yet.

The complete lack of an indicator is no cause for alarm, either. This is a situation that exists when the recipient is away from the internet or Messenger and must wait to get connected to a network.


Frankie’s Take:

When you are using Messenger, you can also learn (hopefully not in the unfortunate manner) that you can get blocked by your friend. In these situations, you will never get any indications about the delivery of messages, because they never reach their intended target.

5. Chatting With Multiple Contacts Simultaneously

Chatting With Multiple Contacts Simultaneously

On Messenger, you can have several conversations happening at the same time, and these all occur in the same manner that you have started in the previous paragraphs.

Accessing these conversations is simple, and only requires you to tap on Recent Conversations item on the bottom left of the screen. You can then choose the one that requires your attention.

In addition to the individual conversations that you can keep up with, there are also options to contact multiple recipients with the same message.

You can accomplish this by entering multiple usernames when selecting options for a new conversation.

Also, you can start the same group conversation by using the group feature in the Groups section on the app.

Group organization can come in handy, as you can address the pertinent people in each division all at once, such as your family, work colleagues, best friends, etc.

If any of the conversations that are present in the recent section begin to be a little too much to wade through, it is easy to either delete the thread or to archive the conversation.

If you want to do this, locate the targeted conversation and swipe it to the left. You can then choose the immediate action of Delete or select More and choose to Archive the chat.


Frankie’s Take:

As many conversations as you can have simultaneously, you will at some point want to leave an overactive group getting bombarded with messages. Good news, it is always possible to leave the group whenever you want.

6. Making Phone and Video Calls with Messenger

Making Free Calls Through Facebook Messenger on Phones

Sure, now you have a better idea of how Messenger works for chatting with other people, but that is not where the functionality of this app ends. You can also use this app to make calls and video calls with all contacts.

To do this, you need to identify the person you want to reach out to from the People section or in the Recent Conversations area.

Tap the name of the contact that you want to call and tap the handset icon in the top right (phone call) or the camera icon in the same area (video call.)

You can use on-screen buttons to turn sounds on/off, enable/disable speakerphone, use the camera, or end the call.


Frankie’s Take:

While Messenger is free to use, it can consume substantial data when you are making voice and video calls. Make sure that you typically only use this feature when you are on Wi-Fi or have adequate data plans from your provider.

7. Messenger Kids

Messenger Kids

Messenger Kids is finally here – a new app that can allow users under 13 to exchange messages, video calls, and more through Facebook.

Kids do not need to have their own Facebook accounts to use the app, they just need for their parents to sign in for them with theirs.

There are no areas for public photos or commentary – this is just chatting with friends and known people.

As a parent, you can choose the contacts you want to authorize and which you want to make inaccessible.

Because of the nature of this application and how susceptible young minds can be, Facebook has already made it clear that this Kids edition of Messenger will have no advertisements or data collection for third party vendors.

These strides to protect the children can help to reduce sensitive data transfer from minors and does not expose any children using the application to offensive content or untoward comments.


Frankie’s Take:

Messenger Kids is a well-designed app. I think parents shhould install it on their child’s phone. Unfortunately, social media has become a dark corner for cyberbullying. If you want to take control of your child’s phone, you could also opt to install a parental app on their device.

8. Keep An Eye on Messenger Data Consumption


Much like all of the messaging and VoIP apps, Messenger uses internet to send/receive messages or make calls. For this reason, the service is free to use with an account.

There is one thing that you should know, however.

While Messenger does not charge you for the messages or the calls, this does not mean that these interactions are without any charges at all.

Since Facebook Messenger requires the use of the internet, its cost is in your data usage.

When you are not connected through a Wi-Fi network, Messenger is going to utilize your mobile network. Be warned: calls made with the service can come with substantial data consumption.

Voice calles can utilize around 1.5 MB of data a minute or roughly 90MB an hour. With 1GB of data on your plan, you can expect this to last only 10 hours.

Video calls absorb far more data per minute. Low quality 2-way video calls can take 4.5 MB per minute while high quality can use 22.5 MB per minute. An hour of high-quality video calling can consume 1.5 GB of your data.


Frankie’s Take:

Before you make any video calls or voice calls, make sure that you get connected to a stable Wi-Fi network. If none is available, ensure that you have the appropriate amount of available data so that you do not get unpleasant surprises on your bill.

Facebook Messenger Advanced Features and Tricks

Now you should have a good idea of how Messenger works and its primary functions – at least what most people want to know.

But there is always more to learn!

I have taken the liberty of listing some advanced functions and tricks that can help you earn your black belt in Facebook Messenger.

Let’s take a look at them now.

9. Appearing Offline

Don’t want your mom, girlfriend, or even your friends to know when you jump on Messenger for a short time? You are not alone.

All you need to do is play around with the Messenger settings a bit to become ‘invisible’ to your contacts, even when you are online.

I have created a very detailed article explaining how to do this. You can appear ‘offline’ on Messenger even when connected, which turns the green dot grey – so anyone online can believe that you are away from your device.

To learn a little more about how to do this, check out the article on our Stay Puft Marshmallow Man Method. This is the most effective way to disappear from Messenger and let others believe you are offline.

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man Method


Frankie’s Take:

Sometimes you just have to appear offline on Messenger. You can talk to several people at the same time, so it is only natural that you might want a little break from this to only talk to the one person you are trying to reach.

10. Hiding Your Last Active Status

Hiding Your Last Active Status

One of the features of Messenger is tracking when a user last opened the application. You are not free from this tracking as one of its frequent users.

As useful as this might be from time to time, it can also be highly annoying.

It seems to always happen when you have dozens of messages to reply to at once. So you sign on and you do not have time to read or respond to everything, and now people are upset because they see that you signed on but ignored their message. See? Annoying.

There is a way that you can solve this problem, but it is going to require multiple taps and the use of both the app on your phone and you signing in to account details on the PC as well.

I have already written an extensive guide on hiding your last active status on Facebook Messenger that you should read before you get started.


Frankie’s Take:

If you are using Messenger on both your smartphone and computer, hiding your last active status only takes a couple of minutes of action in your settings. Once you are done, you can alleviate the stress of dealing with your highly sensitive friends.

11. Hiding Messenger on Your iPhone or Android Phone

You might find becoming a ghost on Messenger is more than removing last active status. You need to hide the app from your phone altogether so that you can still use it but no one can see it.

If you have an overly jealous girlfriend, boyfriend, or spouse – you know exactly what I am talking about.

There are ways to hide Messenger (and any other app) on both Android and iPhone. Luckily all of these methods are quite simple.

In fact, I wrote an entire guide on hiding apps on your smartphone that can be useful when you need it.


Frankie’s Take:

I would recommend you take a look at the guide I wrote on hiding apps like Messenger. Even if you aren’t using it for the message service, you can use it to protect your privacy with other apps that might contain sensitive information like your bank accounts.

12. Reading Someone Else’s Messages (Without Them Knowing) on Messenger

As with every social media service, accounts get hacked, stolen, and spied on all the time. You have heard millions of times about hackers who hack into Facebook accounts to steal sensitive data.

In the past, espionage tactics were only for the most attuned of hackers, but these days software lets literally anyone with intent spy on Facebook accounts.

One of the most famous apps in the world for this is mSpy, which is also one of the leading causes of divorce across the world.

Reading Someone Else’s Messages on Messenger

I have put together an entire article about how to hack a Facebook profile that you should check out. This might help you if you aspire to hack into things, or just to give you some credible information to protect your account.


Frankie’s Take:

These days, hacking Facebook is easy as pie. You need to know about what tactics get used to spy on others so that you can protect your account from anyone trying to read your messages.

13. Sending Anonymous Messages on Messenger

You might find a real need to send an anonymous message, but this is not functionality that Facebook has implemented. In fact, they might never implement it.

But of course there are ways, aren’t there?

To send an anonymous message, you need to create a fake Facebook account that will not lead people back to you. Other than creating a fake account, there is no other way to send messages without people discovering where it came from.

Fake Facebook account

Much like the other subjects here, I have a detailed guide on how to send anonymous messages through Messenger. You can read it to get all of the information you need to begin immediately.


Frankie’s Take:

Creating a fake account is a nuisance, but it is legitimately the only way to send information to someone else without them knowing where the message is actually coming from. Unless you are just pranking your friends, however, know that you might be committing a felony.

14. Sharing Facebook Messenger Videos to WhatsApp on Android or iPhone

Did someone send you a funny video on Messenger and you want to share it with all of your friends that only have WhatsApp?

Well, you should be delighted to know that this is not as complicated as you might think.

Sharing videos from one of these services to the other is quite simple no matter what version you are using – Android, iPhone, or web services on the computer.

You should begin by downloading the video that you received on Messenger. Once you have done this, open the WhatsApp chat that you want to share the content to. Send the file like it was a video shared from the camera of your device.

I have written a detailed guide on the subject of sharing a video from Facebook to WhatsApp. You should check it out.


Frankie’s Take:

There is no direct function in Messenger allowing you to share videos to contacts on WhatsApp. This is strange considering that both of these services have the same owner now (Facebook.)

15. Hiding Facebook Message Previews from Appearing on Lock Screen

Hiding Facebook Message Previews

When you get a message sent to you in Messenger, a preview notification appears that anyone could read – if they were close enough to your phone or saw it at the right angle that is.

This occurs because you have not chosen to hide preview messages from Facebook.

I would recommend this to anyone looking to protect their privacy. There are always people that want to spy on you and your conversations. You can turn on the option to make these previews invisible. Fortunately, the same option exists for WhatsApp as well.

In this way, you can continue to receive notifications, but if the screen is locked, no one can read its contents. You can take a quick look at a guide I wrote to hide message previews to learn more about how this works.


Frankie’s Take:

If you wanted my advice, I would hide all message previews of all instant messaging apps that you use. You never know who is trying to read what messages you get, or the sensitive information that could come across in some of the messages you receive.

16. Deleting Recent Searches

Deleting Recent Searches

Every time we search Facebook for a person, page, or event – all of that information gets archived so that Facebook can generate it quickly for us later when we go to search something again.

You would not be alone to be using Facebook Messenger around other people and choose to search, only to find some recent inappropriate references appear in the search bar as suggestions.

I would like to help you ensure that these situations do not happen again. I have written a detailed blog about how to clear Facebook history. Take a few minutes and check it out.


Frankie’s Take:

Regularly removing entries from your search history can avoid some awkward and damning impressions with other people. You can delete everything in just a couple of taps, so it is simple enough to do often.

17. Delete Conversations or Individual Messages

Delete Conversations or Individual Messages

Worried that your overly jealous significant other or a nosy family member can see the conversations that you have on Facebook Messenger?

No reason to worry anymore.

There is always a solution for you to easily delete messages on Messenger, even if you do not consider yourself to be a tech-savvy whiz on the keyboard.

It only take a few taps (or clicks if you are using Facebook Messenger from your computer). Check out a detailed guide that I wrote regarding how to delete unwanted messages and burn this information into your mind. You are always going to have more conversations or individual incriminating messages to delete.


Frankie’s Take:

We are never too paranoid when it comes to protecting our privacy and personal information when it comes to social media, the internet, or technology. Our devices want to store everything, but there are some things it needs to forget.

18. Send GIFs through Facebook Messenger

Send GIFs through Facebook Messenger

In any of the conversations that you have on Messenger, it is possible to send animated images – or GIFs.

There is an entire integrated archive of these through a host called Giphy (and other services), which allow you to quickly search and share content like this to your contacts in active chats.

You can share these GIFs through Messenger on your PC, iOS, and Android devices.

You need to open the chat that you want to send the GIF, click on the smiley face icon, and then on GIF. Pick what you like and share it. If you happen to have difficulties or are confused by one of these steps, you can always take a peek at our guide on how to share GIFs through Facebook.


Frankie’s Take:

The world over, people are using GIFs on all of the best instant messaging applications like Messenger and WhatsApp. I used to barely use any, but now (I must admit to you, my dearest friends) that I might be addicted to them.

19. Send or Receive Money

You might have noticed that Facebook launched its own payment platform to exchange currency on the site. This is only available in the US and in a handful of European countries right now.

Exchanging money through the app is simple – you just need to select the dollar icon there in a chat window, enter an amount, and choose to ‘pay’.

Next, the recipient accepts the payment, which can then get deposited directly into their account in no more than three working days.

I wrote an article all about sending and receiving money with Messenger. If you want to know more on the topic, this is a detailed place to start.


Frankie’s Take:

You might also consider connecting PayPal to your Messenger account to send/receive money. The function is interesting and handy, but there are some steps that need to get taken before I consider it efficient.

20. Using Messenger Without a Facebook Account

You are not alone if you have begun to hate Facebook but do not want to lose access to the contacts that you have on Messenger. This is why many people maintain their Facebook accounts at all.

I am happy to report that you can finally breathe a little easier. You can use Messenger without Facebook in complete freedom. Not only can you use the app without having the Facebook app, but you can even use Messenger without even having a Facebook account at all.

If you want to know a little more about this, I have a detailed guide about Messenger without Facebook that you can read. Check it out.


Frankie’s Take:

There are surprisingly many people, especially with the rising popularity of platforms like Instagram and TikTok that have chosen to deactivate their accounts and only use Messenger. Now, you can be among them as well.


Now we have reached the point where we say goodbye. You have learned a great many things through reading this article, including the basic functions of Messenger and some of the more advanced features and tricks.

This messaging app is a powerful tool, but perhaps not quite as intuitive as WhatsApp. This is absolutely more feature-rich, though.

You can make voice and video calls with Messenger, send texts to your friends and family, send GIFs, exchange money, and more.

If you have more questions or concerns, you can always reach me through the comment box below. I regularly check these and will answer quickly.


P.S. – I recommend you take a look at an article we wrote about protecting your phone from spies. Messenger is a fantastic application, but not without its own share of risks.

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About Frankie Caruso

I'm Frankie Caruso. I'm a professional amateur in that ugly business of social media, instant messaging apps and computer security. I help all those frustrated people who call themselves digital illiterates to understand something about this confusing digital world.

3 thoughts on “Simply Stated: How Does Facebook Messenger Work?”

  1. Hi Frankie, is it possible to recover some deleted messages from my personal account if I don’t find them in my Archive?

  2. Question: If I block someone but they send me a message anyway, what happens to their message? Does the message get deleted, or does it sit in an inbox for me, in case I stop blocking the sender at some point in the future?


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