What happens to my photos if I delete my Facebook account?

If the latest deluge of Facebook controversies has you ready to kick the app to the digital curb, you are not alone. There are plenty of good guides out there on how to do it right. Even Facebook makes it pretty easy to understand the nuances of saying “see ya later” (deactivating) or “never speak to me again” (deleting).

But before you go, you might want to consider this: What happens to your life stories?

For many people, a decade or more of updates, comments, photos, messages, tags, pokes, groups and reactions reside inside that particular digital sphere. And Facebook wants you to remember that. As one writer put it: “Facebook is obsessed with memories. It likes to make you nostalgic, and remind you of just how long you’ve used social media.”

As a researcher who studies life stories on social media, I know that’s an accurate assessment. This strategy drove Facebook to build a powerful and unique life narrative tool. Millions of people have invested billions of collective hours building what scholars call a networked life narrative, in which people “co-construct” their social identities through their interactions with one another.

Perhaps you’ve never thought about how archiving the small moments of your life would eventually amass into a large narrative of yourself. Or how interactions from your family, friends, colleagues and strangers would create meaningful dimensions of that story.

Deactivating versus deleting

What happens if you decide to be done with all of that? If you deactivate Facebook, it is like putting that story into suspended animation. Much of what you did and said will either be removed or grayed out. If you reactivate it someday, most of it will be restored and on you go.

Feeling the urge to quit Facebook? Book Catalog/Flickr, CC BY

Delete the account, on the other hand, and “Your profile, photos, posts, videos, and everything else you’ve added will be permanently deleted. You won’t be able to retrieve anything you’ve added,” according to Facebook.

If all those memories you have stored mean anything to you, your last chance to keep it before deleting is to download your information. I suggest you do this once in a while anyway, because it reveals a lot about how you are tracked, how you consume media on the app and how you have acted on the site over the years.

It’s also a pretty nifty set of files that you can view offline either through the folder system or using a web browser offline by opening the index.html file. You can also look at the data online through Facebook.

Losing the connections

But to a surprisingly large degree, your downloaded narrative gets “de-networked.” What do I mean by that?

  • Your posts are listed by date and time, but have none of the reactions and comments that followed. This is also true of photos and videos you have posted.

  • The same happens to the comments you made on other people’s posts. There is no reference to what you were commenting on because technically that is not your data.

  • The polls you have voted on do not have the context of the poll itself, only your answers.

  • The invitations you received are listed only by name.

  • There is a section of all the people you have interacted with on the app, but it’s just a list of names, dates and times.

  • There are dates attached to most everything, but none of the context – think personal and social news – in which those posts were made.

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There are exceptions. For one, your messages are left in context, so you see the conversations you had. Another exception is that events are ordered by how you responded about attending. And I have one caveat: I am gathering this information from my own data, so there might be other exceptions I cannot see.

Take a look around before walking out the door

Still, what you ultimately download starts to feel like the scaffolding of a life, with the depth of those memories only activated by your own mind. That might be enough for you.

If the richness of your networked narrative means something, on the other hand, slow down. Take some time to dive into your account one last time – saving the responses you cherish, capturing the context where you can – before you say goodbye to Facebook for good.

A lot of advantages come with having a Facebook account, and it's an easy way to stay up to date with friends and co-workers. However, any social media account comes with potential dangers. Posting what goes on in your life often leads to a loss of privacy, and putting your personal information on your profile exposes it to third parties.

As a Facebook user, you have the option to delete Facebook, but you may prefer to deactivate your account instead. A deactivated account is temporarily removed from the social network, but you can reactivate it when you are ready. There are some dangers associated with deactivating your account.

You Lose Some Information in the Network

A certain amount of information contained within the Facebook network disappears the moment you deactivate your account. Any posts you made to the walls of your friends remain there. However, they won’t be able to get to your account by clicking on your name anymore. Users also won’t be able to access your page or site when they click on your link in tagged photos. Your status updates all but disappear, and any community pages you are part of won’t show you as a member anymore.

You Don’t Appear in Searches Anymore

When you deactivate your Facebook account, you don’t appear on searches anymore. Before, anyone who wanted to connect with you and send you a friend request would search your name on Facebook and find your profile. That isn’t possible after you deactivate your account. Your friends won’t be able to notify you via a poke, message, or otherwise that they want to connect with you. They also won’t have any way of knowing from the network that you have temporarily taken down your account. The only way they’ll know is if you tell them.

Networking Disadvantages

The whole point of Facebook is to make networking super easy for people. When you deactivate your Facebook account, you cut yourself off from enjoying this benefit. You won’t be able to see your relatives, friends, work colleagues and acquaintances on the platform anymore. You won’t be able to keep in touch on the social media platform and won’t be able to see their posts or get their notifications. You lose touch with your online social circle until you reactivate your account.

Information on Your Account

Facebook promises to save your personal information on your account when you deactivate it. It should be there waiting for you as soon as you reactivate and get back online. This information includes posts, emails and friends lists. However, there is no guarantee that this is what will happen. There is the off chance that Facebook could accidentally delete all that information or at least some of it from your account. Although it is unlikely, a few cases of this happened in Facebook’s early days. Data loss can happen when Facebook conducts an upgrade on its network or a routine maintenance operation.

How to Delete Facebook

Deleting your Facebook account is different from deactivating your account – it's permanent after a 14-day waiting period. If you decide to delete your Facebook account, you should download a copy of your data first because you lose any data including photos associated with your Facebook account when you delete it. During the 14-day waiting period, your account is deactivated and doesn't show on the site, but after 14 days, no information can be retrieved.

Does deleting Facebook actually delete everything?

Deleting. Deleting your account, on the other hand, gets rid of most everything, including your name, contact information and nearly all of what you ever sent or posted on Facebook. You won't be able to restore your account if you ever change your mind and want to return.

How do I delete my Facebook but keep my pictures?

Select Settings & Privacy. Click Settings. Scroll down to the Your Facebook Information section. Click Transfer a Copy of Your Photos or Videos.

Does Facebook keep your photos forever?

When you choose to delete something you shared on Facebook, we remove it from the site. Some of this information is permanently deleted from our servers; however, some things can only be deleted when you permanently delete your account. Was this helpful?