Social media can sometimes be stressful. To manage this stress, many people temporarily deactivate their Instagram account to take a break. But how long can you stay logged out before Instagram decides you’ve left for good and deletes your account altogether?
Instagram’s inactive username and account policy is vague. That said, Meta’s policy says that they reserve the right to delete your account after 28 days of inactivity. In practice, Instagram only seems to delete profiles that are inactive for a year or more. But if you’re worried, it’s best to log in every 28 days just to be safe.
What Does Deactivating an Instagram Account Mean?
There are many reasons you might decide to deactivate your Instagram account. Most often, people do it to take a temporary break from social media. It reduces the temptation to log in and check your likes and comments. And it’s far more effective than simply deleting the app from your phone.
However, a deactivated Instagram account is exactly that – deactivated. It’s not permanently deleted. You can enter your username and password and you’ll be able to regain access to your account. It will be just as if you’d never left the platform.
While your account is deactivated, it will no longer be visible to other Instagram users. If people try to search for you, you won’t show up in the results. Even people who are already following you will no longer be able to view your account.
If you have ongoing DMs with other people, they’ll still be able to see your messages. However, you won’t get any alerts for messages they send you. From their point of view, your profile picture will be blank, and your name will display simply as “Instagram User.”
Meanwhile, Instagram will save all of your photos, posts, comments, DMs, and relationships. When you’re ready to come back from your self-enforced social media hiatus, nothing will be lost.
Deactivating vs. Deleting an Instagram Account?
Deactivating your account is a temporary action. It’s something you can take back any time you want to. Deleting your account, on the other hand, is a little more extreme.
When you delete your Instagram account, it goes away permanently. Your photos, comments, interactions, and relationships will all be deleted. Your account won’t show up in search results, because it no longer exists.
Your friends will still be able to see any non-disappearing DMs you’ve sent them, but they won’t be able to answer. Your image will be left blank, and your name will show up as “Instagram User.”
Instagram’s Inactive Username Policy
So, how long does Instagram let a deactivated account sit idle before they delete it? We checked through Instagram’s help site, and this is all they had to say about it:
“We encourage people to log in and use Instagram once they create an account. To keep your account active, be sure to log in and share photos, as well as like and comment on photos.”
That’s pretty vague. It doesn’t tell you how often you have to log in or exactly how long you’ll wait. However, Instagram is governed by the Meta terms of service, which are the same as the terms for Facebook. These terms are a little more clear:
“We may suspend or end your App’s access to any Platform APIs, permissions, or features that your App has not used or accessed within a 28-day period with or without notice to you.”
In other words, if you want to be totally safe, you’ll want to log into your account at least once a month. That said, anecdotal evidence shows that Instagram typically waits a year or more before deleting accounts.
Does this mean you should wait a whole year before logging in? No. But it means if you accidentally forget to log in for a few extra days, you should be just fine.
If your account has already been deleted, that’s another matter – especially if you’re not sure why. Here’s what to do if your Instagram account was deleted for no reason.
How to Temporarily Disable Your Instagram Account
To disable your Instagram account, you’ll need a computer, a mobile browser, or the iPhone app. For the time being, there’s no temporary deactivation option in the Android app. Here’s how to do it in your browser – the process in the iPhone app is pretty simple.
- Log into Instagram and click on your profile picture at the top right. Select “Profile” from the dropdown list, then choose “Edit Profile”.
- Scroll down to the bottom, then click the link in the bottom right that says “Temporarily deactivate my account.”
- You’ll see a dropdown menu asking why you’re disabling your account. Select a reason, then enter your password when prompted. When you’ve done both of these things, a new button will appear, allowing you to deactivate your account.
- Click the button, then click “Yes” to confirm.
Keep in mind that Instagram puts limits on how often you can deactivate your account. If you reactivate it, you’ll have to wait until a week after deactivation in order to deactivate it again.
Also keep in mind that you can set your posts to private to avoid engaging with the public. You can also block individual users if you’re tired of dealing with them. Disabling your account isn’t the only option.
What if I Want to Delete My Account Right Away?
If you’re done with Instagram for good, you can choose to permanently delete your account. You’ll need to be able to log in to do this. Instagram won’t delete it for you.
Before you move forward with deletion, it can be wise to download your data. That way, you can preserve copies of all your pictures and other posts – they just won’t be online. Once you’ve deleted your account, you won’t be able to download anything. Here’s how to delete your account:
- Log into your account and navigate to the Delete Your Account page.
- A popup will appear with a dropdown menu that asks why you want to delete your account. Choose an appropriate reason and enter your password in the field. Once you’ve chosen a reason and entered your password, you’ll see an option to delete your account.
- Click the Delete button.
The delete screen will include the username you’re trying to delete. Make sure it’s the right one before you move forward! If you’re trying to delete a linked Instagram account, the process is a little bit different. Here’s how to delete a linked account.
Once an account has been deleted, the username will become available for use. You can add it to another account, or create a new account with the same Instagram handle. Keep in mind that this is only true if you delete the account on your own. If Instagram deletes it for violating their terms of service, it may become permanently unavailable.
For 30 days after your account deletion, you’ll still be able to recover it. Simply log into Instagram and ask to recover your account. After that, the information will be permanently deleted and you’ll no longer be able to recover it.
Some of your information may remain on Instagram’s backup servers for up to 90 days. These servers aren’t accessible to the public and you can’t request them to be restored. These old records only exist so that Instagram can restore people’s profiles if the primary servers become permanently damaged.
How Do I Back Up My Instagram Data?
As we mentioned, it’s wise to download your Instagram data before you delete your account. Otherwise, you can permanently delete treasured photos and never be able to retrieve them.
Thankfully, there’s an easy way to download all of your data in HTML or JSON format. The process is quick and easy:
- Click the menu in the bottom left corner, and select “Settings.”
- Click the option for “Privacy and security.”
- Scroll down to where it says “Data download,” and select “Request download.”
- You’ll be prompted to enter an email address to receive your file. This can be the address associated with your Instagram account, but it doesn’t have to be.
- Select either the HTML or the JSON format for your documents.
- On the next screen, you’ll be prompted to enter your password, then click “Request download” again.
Within two weeks, you’ll receive an email with a link to your data. Click the link, and you’ll be able to recover all of your Instagram information.
You can delete your account before receiving your email. However, the “Request download” option won’t be available after you’ve deleted your account. So make sure you’ve requested the link before you go ahead with your deletion.
Instagram won’t delete your deactivated account unless it’s been inactive for a while. Anecdotally, you can wait for up to a year. In theory, Meta’s terms of service allow them to delete an account that’s been inactive for only 28 days. So it’s wise to log in at least once a month to keep your account safe.