How to Arrange Private FaceBook Communications withOUT Messenger App

TL;DR

Facebook’s Messenger app offers one positive: convenient access. It also presents a host of negatives. Folks with way too much time on their hands love to send chain letters; lonely gents look for a quick fix; dancing hearts or gifs may disguise harmful viruses primed to infect the recipient’s machine. I deleted the app, but still provide an easy way for folks to reach me. The difference? My option is secure, and the very nature of it tends to discourage sending the silly stuff. Neither $$ nor tech knowledge is required to employ the option!

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes.


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The Problem: TimeWasting Messages & Security Woes

Of the hundreds of messages received via FaceBook’s Messenger app, only a handful proved desirable. Examples of the ridiculous time eaters littering my Messenger InBox on a near-daily basis:

  • chain letters, e.g. If you love Jesus, send this note to 10 friends and to me….; grown folk should know better but, hey, it is what it is
  • invitations to apps/games
  • dating attempts
  • multi-paragraph virtual dissertations on the sender’s version of whatever

Clearly, some folks enjoy excess time. And, many folks remain unaware of viruses disguised as apps/ games/gifs/ links/ etc., happily passing along the dastardly payload. I’ve lost count of Messenger lovers reaching out for tech help, following a (predictable) virus infection after a dance with Messenger.

Keep communications safe and fun - try a free easy alternative
Keep communications safe and fun – try a free easy alternative

My Cures

✧︎︎︎ 1. Freebie WordPress.com’s Easy-to-Construct Contact Form

Because of my dual professions (attorney/writer), I wanted a mechanism immediately accessible to those wanting to contact me for substantive reasons, while weeding out the silly messages. My theory: if the message-sender seriously wants my attention, that person will click the posted Contact Form link. Others likely “can’t be bothered,” preferring the no-live-brain-cells-required Messenger route for sharing mundane thoughts.

As WordPress.com subscribers know, the system provides a dirt-easy-to-implement Contact Form—for both free and premium subscribers. This article focuses on the free aspect.

Instructions, including a video walk-through, are available at the WordPress.com Support area. Because one look at the page’s screenshots might spark hesitation for those uncomfortable with technology, the following cheatsheet is provided.

● Cliff Notes How-To Steps

Go to WordPress.com and create a free account. The UserName you choose will become part of your URL, i.e. UserName.wordpress.com. Once the contact form goes live, that address will be UserName.wordpress.com/contact/.

After creating your account, the system will ask you to select a free theme, or you can keep the default. Next, you’ll zero in on creating the Contact Form.

Click on MY SITE in the upper left corner which leads you to your dashboard, also referred to as your admin(istrative) area. In the left column, look for PAGES and click it. Select CONTACT from the pre-existing pages listed. This takes you to the Edit screen, where you can accept the form as presented or tweak it by adding your own text. When done, click PREVIEW to inspect the Contact form’s appearance. Once satisfied, click UPDATE/SAVE. That’s it, in a nutshell.

Enter your URL in a browser address bar (UserName.wordpress.com/contact/). If you don’t see your Contact Form, it’s likely because you saved it as a “Draft.” Repeat the initial My Site steps given above to access your admin area. Click Pages, then Contact. Change visibility/status from Draft to Publish. Again enter your Contact Form URL in your browser address bar. This time, test the form by entering data. If you receive an eMail notification, reflecting the data you entered, congrats! Your form is now ready for Freddy.

FYI: The system default is configured to forward notification of messages received through the Contact Form to the eMail address you entered during sign up. While in the Contact Form edit screen, you’ll see the preferences which you can change if desired.

You can accept or change the default notification preferences
You can accept or change the default notification preferences
For personal convenience, you can download the free WordPress.com app, available for virtually all platforms. In addition to creating and maintaining a blog, you can also fine-tune notications, e.g. arrange to receive alerts on your mobile device.

✧︎︎︎ 2. Virus Resistant Machines

Understand: some folks simply are unaware of the tricks used to install viruses. Scammers and spammers adore FaceBook because the system embraces communications among “friends.” Scammers theorize a message received from a known person minimizes one’s guard, i.e. the recipient is more likely to click on an attachment within that message.

Through the years, a number of devices have crossed our home’s threshold:

  • iMac (desktop)
  • MacBook Air (laptop)
  • iPad
  • Asus (Windows laptop/ hubby)
  • ChromeBook (laptop)
  • Android Nexus 6P (my business-only line)
  • iPhone

The boldface items = the only devices I allow myself to use when dealing with FaceBook. Why?

No executable file (read: app) can be installed on a ChromeBook, and some version of an app is a requisite for virus installation. Available starting at under $200, the ChromeBook shines as the new “it just works” machine. Open, start, and browse using Google Chrome. Slight if any learning curve. Instant boot-up.

My Chrome browser includes multiple extensions I’ve added through the free Google Chrome store, some geared to killing ads on Facebook and elsewhere. When I need a true app, such as for serious writing tasks, I rely on my iPad.

I learned of the Dell ChromeBook 13/7310 around Black Friday 2015. It’s claimed 12-hour battery life prompted my click of an order button. Turns out, it’s more like 14-15 hours. That, combined with its inherent security features—freeing me from claimed anti-virus apps—ensures I am unlikely to purchase another Windows- or Apple-based laptop/desktop, saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

As regards the iPhone and iPad, apps can be downloaded/installed only from the Apple iOS App Store. Apple reviews each app for privacy and other violations, allowing me to download with confidence. That iOS App Store opened in mid-2008. I’ve been using it since day one. Viruses? Nadda.

WrapUp

One can bemoan the irritation that is FaceBook Messenger, or one can acknowlefge its foibles and implement self-protection steps. Your world. Your choice.

Note: I am not advocating that you buy a ChromeBook or an iOS device today. Rather, using myself as an example, both my iMac and MacBook Air machines were purchased almost 10 years ago (2008 and 2009, respectively). Tech moves at a rapid pace, translating into machines that are each now formally deemed “obsolete” by Apple. The battery life of the Air barely reaches a paltry 2-3 hours these days. And, the iMac has slowed considerably. I needed a replacement BigBoy machine, so I researched my options. (Some of my written work entails footnotes up the wazoo; only the BigBoy machines offer the word processors required to handle that reality.)

Aside: Typical workflow example: Research & draft a related doc on my iPad, using a plain-text (Markdown) editor. File saved to DropBox. From the desktop, I open that text file with my preferred word processor (Nisus Writer Pro). I proofread, create required footnotes, save to PDF, then file with the court or submit it elsewhere.

The Dell 13 muscled its way to the top of my shortlist. At a then-sale price in the $300 range, and the iMac and Air’s pricing approaching two grand, the Dell rendered my final choice a no-brainer. Add: personal opinion → Apple’s dwindling quality control forced me to reaccess my allegiance to their products. I’ll pay top dollar for a worthy machine, but when that machine sparks memories of my Windows Vista days, the brown truck guy will ultimately deliver a ChromeBook rather than an Apple computer. Just sayin’.

Bottom-line: my always Speedy Gonzalez Dell delights rather than irritates. I have no virus-related concerns. I see no ads. The ChromeBook stands as this tech nerd’s best purchase, with the possible exceptions of the Blackberry and Sony Clié PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) back in da day.

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Call to Action

Evolving technology gave us FaceBook, enhanced powerful computer chips, and more. It also empowered the varmint crew of mental midgets to conjure trickier ways to infect our devices. FaceBook Messenger remains a prime offender in this regard. Unless and until FaceBook’s head honchos include a security mechanism designed to remove crap from messages BEFORE transmitted, that app will remain a stranger to my world of devices.

If you’re annoyed by the types of (non-)messages typically sent through Messenger, or worried about the potential for virus infections courtesy of payloads sometimes hidden in what appears to be a dancing gif, you now have an avoidance solution. My goal: inform you of options. As always, your world – your choice.

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Til later…

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