You can now unsend messages in Facebook Messenger

If you have ever felt a full-body cringe after sending a message to the wrong recipient, you can see the merits of being able to unsend that message.

But many services don’t allow unsending of messages, mainly because well, once people see it unsending doesn’t do a whole lot for you. There’s also the potential for something like this to be abused – imagine a bully sending cruel messages and then unsending them, allowing them to plausibly deny any culpability.

Nevertheless, Facebook Messenger has made available the ability to unsend, or in their terminology “remove for everyone” a message that you may have mis-sent. WhatsApp has also had similar capabilities for a while.

There are some important caveats should you ever want to remove a message from Facebook Messenger:

  • You have ten minutes to decide you’ve made a mistake. After 10 minutes, that message is permanent, you can’t remove it.
  • When you’ve removed the message, there will be a placeholder where your old message used to be. It will say that you had removed a message, and if your message was somehow breaking the Facebook Community Standards, they’ll still be able to report it. (No “dirty deleting”!)

(And alas, Facebook hasn’t yet made available the technology to wipe a mis-sent message from the actual memory of the recipients’ brains, but who knows, watch this space.)

Here’s how to do it:

  • When logged into Messenger on your phone, tap-hold on the offending message in question, to bring up the Remove option at the bottom of the screen. Remove (note, if you see Delete instead of Remove, you might need to install the latest version of Messenger – Delete only hides the message from you, not your recipient!)
  • If you’re logged in to Messenger on your desktop, hover over the message to bring up more options ... It will show a Remove button.
  • When you select Remove you’ll be given the option to choose between Remove for everyone or Remove for you.
  • After you’ve removed the message for everyone, a greyed-out placeholder will appear in the chat where your message used to be that says “(your name) removed a message”.

If this brings back memories of the much-maligned “email recall” option from Outlook clients of the past, you’re not alone – but unlike email recall, this feature actually seems to work as advertised.