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Social media can be a bit of a messaging mess, with DMs sliding in from anybody and everybody to make your account feel like the world’s worst suggestion box. 

Tech companies know that, so they’ve armed a lot of their apps with the ability to automatically filter out communications that don’t seem to be from people you know. By moving these messages to a ‘hidden’ inbox, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram aim to prevent you from getting overwhelmed with random messages. 

But the automation is not perfect, so sometimes you might miss messages from people you actually want to get in touch with: Long-lost school friends, potential new clients, or relatives with new social media accounts. What’s more, these filtered messages won’t prompt a notification on your phone or browser, so they’re easy to ignore.

To make sure you’re not missing anything, you need to know where these alternative inboxes are and check them regularly to see what’s coming in.

How to find hidden DMs on Facebook

When it comes to customizing who can get in touch with you, Facebook is one of the more sophisticated social networks out there. Anyone with an account on the platform can hit you up, but if you’re not friends, these messages will be siphoned off into a different inbox.

You can get to your Facebook inbox through the Facebook Messenger portal on the web. Click your profile picture (top left), then choose Message requests to see what’s been coming in from your non-friends. To accept a communication simply reply to it. This will also authorize all future messages from that person and redirect them to your standard inbox.

[Related: How to send and receive texts from the comfort of your computer]

If you get a message from someone you’d rather not be in touch with, just ignore the communication or click the I don’t want to hear from… option underneath the incoming message. That latter option gives you the choice of deleting the chat or blocking the contact, which will delete the chat and also prevent any future attempts by this person to get in touch with you.

The processes aren’t much different over on the Facebook Messenger apps for Android and iOS, though there are more messages to sift through. Tap your profile picture (top left), then Message requests to see the list. On mobile, Facebook displays a You may know list (which is the message requests list you see on the web) together with a Spam list of incoming communications that it thinks are junk (these are quite often large group chats). At the bottom of each chat, you can reply to accept it, tap Delete to erase it, or tap Block to block the user.

How to get to your hidden DMs on Twitter

Twitter keeps everything quite well locked down when it comes to direct messages. Unless you change the default settings, only people you follow will be able to message you, and these messages will go straight into your main inbox. If there’s someone you don’t want to hear from, it’s as easy as unfollowing them.

However, you might have turned on the feature that lets anyone on Twitter send you a DM (from the settings page on mobile or the web, it’s Privacy and safety, Direct Messages, and then Allow message requests from everyone). It makes you more available but also more open to spam, which means you’ll need to do some message management from time to time.

If you’ve enabled this feature, messages from people you don’t follow go to a separate inbox. To find it on Twitter on the web, click the messages button on the left of the timeline (it looks like an envelope), then choose Message requests. Underneath every incoming message, you can click Accept to start chatting and move the message into your main box; Delete to erase the message and never think about it again, or Block and report if you want to proactively stop this person from getting in touch with you in the future.

You’ll find the same three buttons inside the Twitter apps for Android and iOS. Open the messages tab with the little envelope icon (bottom right), then choose Message requests from the top of the list. Open up a conversation from this inbox to find the options to Report, Delete or Accept.

Finding your message requests on Instagram

Instagram also uses a filtering system to keep unwanted messages away from your main inbox. Anyone on the platform can message you if they know your handle—even if you have a private account—but only messages from people you’re following or who are on your Close Friends list will make it into your main inbox.

But you can change this if you want to limit who can get in touch with you. From the Instagram app for Android or iOS, tap your profile picture (bottom right), then the menu button (three lines, top right), then choose Settings, Privacy, and Messages. There are two separate options here: Your followers on Instagram and Others on Instagram. In each case, you can choose whether to accept message requests or just block messages entirely. Remember: you’ll always get messages from accounts you’re following.

[Related: How to save your text messages from disappearing when you get a new phone]

Still in the mobile app, tap the messages icon (the paper airplane icon, top right), then switch to the Requests tab to see incoming communications from people you’re not currently following on the platform. Select a chat and you get three different options to pick from: Block (stop this person from contacting you), Delete (delete the message but take no further action) and Accept (move the message into your main inbox).

You’ll find the same three options available if you open up Instagram on the web and go to your DMs there. Again, it’s the paper airplane icon button up in the top right—click the Request link at the top of your chat list (it’ll show how many unread requests you’ve got), and you can open up the conversations and take whatever action is necessary.

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