How far back does your Facebook message history go? If you’re a millennial, maybe elementary school – not exactly the pinnacle of your intellectual life. Regardless of age, though, scrolling through your Messenger history can be cringe worthy.
However, Facebook doesn’t really make deleting conversations a primary part of its messaging feature – they just naturally slide to the bottom as the chats fall into disuse, and the actual deletion function they’ve actually built in is painfully slow. Luckily, there are some browser extensions that can help you clean out your inbox a little faster.
Disclaimer: The Internet is forever
Unfortunately, because you’re not the only participant in these conversations, deleting your side means very little. The other party still has it on their Facebook account, and even if everyone involved deletes the conversation, the records may still be living somewhere on Facebook’s servers. Because Facebook is not end-to-end encrypted by default (though you can enable this option), messages you exchange on it can potentially stick around in plain text for the lifetime of both accounts.
Are you sure you want to delete?
If your main goal is just to make sure no one who gets access to your Facebook can pry into your message history, complete deletion is definitely the best option. However, if you’re just looking to clear up your cluttered inbox, you may want to consider the “Archive” option. You can reach this by hitting the gear icon that appears when you hover over a conversation and clicking “Archive.” This moves it to a separate folder where your old messages can live, safely tucked away from your new ones.
Deleting method #1: The slow way
There is a built-in way to delete your Facebook messages, but if you have more than a few, it’ll take you forever. Nonetheless, if you just want to clear a few, this is the quickest way:
1. Open Messenger on any device.
2. Click the gear icon that appears when you hover over a conversation.
3. Click “Delete.”
4. Click “Delete” again, or if you have second thoughts, click “Archive.”
Method #2: Bulk deletion
If the one-by-one method feels a bit laborious, you might prefer an option more akin to what you can do in your email – checking boxes next to conversations and pressing “Delete” to clear them all at once. There are several Chrome extensions that offer this feature, but the frighteningly-named “Delete All Messages for Facebook™” is one of the better ones.
1. Install the Delete All Messages for Facebook Chrome extension.
2. Open Messenger in Chrome.
3. Scroll down to ensure that all the messages you want to delete are already loaded on the page. The extension needs to see them when it’s activated so it knows what to delete.
4. Click the extension’s button in the top-right Chrome extensions’ toolbar.
5. Select “Choose & Delete.” Be careful, as if you pick “Delete All,” the extension will delete all your messages. Only click that if you really mean it.
6. Select the messages you want to delete using the checkboxes on the far-left side. Then, click “Delete Selected Messages” on top of the page. This will delete only the messages you have selected.
If the checkboxes aren’t appearing next to messages you want to delete, try clicking “Choose & Delete” again with those messages already loaded on the page.
Method #3: The nuclear option
If you find yourself overwhelmed and/or disgusted by your Facebook messaging history, you’ll find this option pretty handy. There are plenty of Chrome extensions that work, but for convenience, we’ll stick with the one mentioned above: “Delete All Messages for Facebook™.”
Warning: this will delete all your messages! Only do it if you really don’t want them around anymore. If you just want to save a few, it’s a good idea to go through and archive the important ones so they don’t get caught in the crossfire.
1. Open Messenger in Chrome, and click on the extension’s icon in the toolbar on the top-right.
2. As with the previous function, you will have to scroll down until all your messages are loaded, otherwise they won’t actually all be deleted.
3. Click “Delete All Messages,” and click through the prompts that follow!
Conclusion: Two can’t keep a secret even if one of them is dead
As clean as your Facebook inbox might look, your teenage rants are still haunting some server, somewhere, and can still be used as blackmail by your friends/enemies if they happen to look back that far. Forming a deletion pact with your conversation partners will make your messages pretty hard to access, but it’s still not 100% certain that Facebook’s servers aren’t immortalizing some of your words. As you go forward, be wiser than your young self and stick to encrypted messaging apps for sensitive conversations.