Facebook Chat: What It Is and How to Use It

The best way to communicate with friends across the globe

A woman sitting in front of a laptop in a coffee shop

Tom Werner/Getty Images 

Facebook Chat is one of the best ways to communicate with your friends via the popular social network, but it can be a little confusing to figure out at first. Here's a look at what Facebook Chat is and what you can do with it.

What Is Facebook Chat?

Facebook Chat is a key part of the service, but it's not immediately obvious on your Facebook home screen. Located in the bottom right-hand corner of the Facebook website, it constantly displays the number of your friends online and available, and enables you to chat instantly to your friends rather than send public wall posts.

It works a lot like Facebook Messenger since you can privately message people, but the thinking behind Facebook Chat is you can converse in real-time. At all times though, your messages are saved via Facebook Messenger so you can always look back through the history of your conversation.

Think of Facebook Chat as a replacement to other instant messaging services like SMS, iMessage, or WhatsApp, and you're on the right path. It's particularly ideal if your friends are located around the world, as you don't have to worry about exchanging phone numbers to stay in contact. 

How to Message Someone on Facebook Chat

Facebook Chat is very simple to use. Here's how to start messaging someone on the service.

  1. Select Chat.

    How to access Facebook chat from the home page

    You can create group chats by scrolling down to Group Conversations and select Create New Group

  2. Select the name of the friend you want to message.

    You can search for a friend's name by typing in their name into the Search Bar at the bottom of the Sidebar. 

  3. In the dialog box that appears, type the message you want to send them, then press Enter to send it. 

    Facebook home page with Facebook chat prominent for typing a message to someone

    You can also choose to 'wave' at them. Just select the wave icon to the right of their name. This sends a 'wave' to them so they know you're saying hi. It's a good ice breaker.

  4. You've successfully started messaging someone. Type further messages into this box to continue your chat.

How to Close a Facebook Chat

When you've finished chatting with someone, it's useful to close the chat box so your screen isn't cluttered. Click the X in the chat box to close it. 

Facebook home page displaying how to close a chat tab

How to Close the Facebook Chat Sidebar

If you want to close the Facebook Chat Sidebar so you have more space on the screen, it's a fairly simple process.

  1. Select the Settings cog on the bottom of the sidebar.

    Facebook home page displaying where to find settings for Facebook Chat
  2. Select Hide Sidebar.

    Facebook Home Page highlighting how to hide the Facebook Chat Sidebar
  3. In the same place, you can select Turn Off Active Status to hide your active status. You'll still receive messages, but friends won't see you at the top of their Chat list.

What Else Can You Do via Facebook Chat?

There's a lot more you can do via Facebook Chat than simply send text-based messages. You can also:

  • Send Photos
  • Send Stickers
  • Find and send GIFs
  • Add Emojis
  • Include Files
  • Take Photos via your PC or Mac's webcam
  • Play a Facebook game with the other person