Deleting Accidentally Posted Instagram Photo: Vanishes?

Here’s everything about deleting an accidentally posted Instagram photo:

If you delete a picture that you posted to Instagram, the picture will no longer be visible to other users on the platform.

But, any screenshots or copies of the photo that were made will still exist after you delete the post.

On top of that, the post might be archived, and you would have to ask to have it removed.

So if you want to learn all about what happens if you remove an Instagram photo posted by mistake, then this article is for you.

Let’s jump right into it!

Deleting Accidentally Posted Instagram Photo: Vanishes?

How Do Instagram Posts Work?

Artist taking a selfie with her painting

You get the gist of Instagram, but what actually happens when you post something?

Well, that largely depends on your account settings.

With Instagram, you can have a private or a public account.

If you have a private account, you have a lot of control over who can see your stuff through the app.

Only followers can view your posts, and you can even put further restrictions on access if you want.

It’s called a “private” account for a reason.

You can even choose settings that allow you to hand-pick which followers are allowed to see your posts.

In that case, when you upload content and create a new post, Instagram will make that post visible to your followers but in accordance with your privacy settings.

It could be visible to tons of people or very few people.

It depends on how you manage your account.

If you have a public account, things are completely different.

With a public account, literally, anyone using Instagram can see what you post.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that a lot of people will see your post, but they could.

How many people see it mostly depends on your engagement.

If you have tons of followers and use hashtags well and even hashtagged the photo that you want to delete, there’s a chance that Instagram pushed it to a lot of people.

If you’re not so engaged, then being public might not matter that much.

There’s a lot of variance, but in general, you can assume that posts on a public account are seen. 

What Happens When You Delete a Post on Instagram?

Woman using her smartphone while sitting on a sofa

Whether you made the original post intentionally or not, if you upload content to Instagram, it is not a permanent decision.

Pictures and videos can be removed and even deleted from your Instagram account.

If this is something you need to do, you’ll find instructions here.

When you delete a post from your Instagram account, it gets removed from public view.

People browsing your account can no longer see the content.

But, the picture or video is not immediately deleted from the Instagram servers on a permanent basis.

Instead, Instagram holds on to the content for 30 days in case you decide to change your mind and repost it.

If you don’t repost it, it will be deleted at the end of those 30 days.

You can also find instructions to remove the Instagram archive (where the deleted post is stored for 30 days) in the instructions I already linked.

One thing to keep in mind is that deleting the content from Instagram does not delete the original.

So, if you take a photo, upload it to Instagram, and then decide to take it down, your original photo is left untouched by all of this.

In that way, you can control your Instagram account, and you don’t have to delete personal photos or videos in the process.

Can You Delete an Accidental Instagram Post to Get The Photo Back? (4 Things)

Woman with laptop shocked outdoors

Here’s where we can really get into the meat of the original question.

Let’s say you are posting to Instagram, and you accidentally publish the wrong photo.

For the sake of an example, let’s say it’s a photo that has a family member, and you know that they don’t like having their picture on Instagram.

You realize the mistake pretty quickly, so you delete the post.

Does that effectively pull the post off of the internet?

Did you get it back under your control?

The answer here depends on a lot of things, including how long the post was available and how many people tend to check your Instagram page.

I’ll get into some of the reasons the picture might still be on the internet, but let’s talk about what is certain first.

#1 People Not Seeing Your Instagram Photo

Young people busy using smartphones together

The big thing is that once you delete a photo on Instagram, other users can no longer access it or see it.

They can’t return to your page and continue to view the photo, and since it’s now off of Instagram, other users can no longer try to save the picture with a screenshot or other technique (more on that in a bit).

You’ve done the most important thing, and you did effectively get the photo off of Instagram.

Even if the photo sits in an archive for a bit, that archive is not accessible to other users.

The primary threat is gone.

The problem is that while the photo was posted, you had no control over it, and there are a few ways things can spiral even when a photo is only posted for a short amount of time.

#2 Screenshots

Woman using her smartphone outdoors

The first thing we need to discuss is screenshots.

With modern phones, tablets, and computers, it’s pretty easy to take a photo of whatever is on your screen.

You don’t need a camera to point at your screen and then grab the photograph.

Instead, the software in the device can create a perfect copy of what is on your screen and save it with your other pictures on the device.

Considering that, let’s think about Instagram.

Instagram makes it so that you can’t easily download photos that you see on the site, but the software can’t stop screenshots.

That means that in our example where you want to take down an accidental post, anyone who sees the post before you take it down can create a screenshot.

That’s the biggest risk.

Screenshots are easy to take, and you won’t know if anyone did so while the photo was available.

It’s really a best guess, but you can actually think about that in reasonable terms.

Consider how many users you have and how long the photo was up.

There’s a limited chance that any individual saw the photo, and even less of a chance that they took a screenshot.

So, if you only have 10 followers and the photo was only up for 5 minutes, it’s quite unlikely that anyone saw it, much less took a screenshot.

If you have 10 million followers and the picture was up for several days, it’s almost inevitable that multiple screenshots were taken.

It’s really just a numbers game, and unfortunately, a reasonable estimate is the best you can do.

#3 The Way Back Machine

Smiling woman working on her laptop while checking her smartphone

There’s another problem, and you might not have seen this one coming.

There is something known as “The Wayback Machine.”

It’s a non-profit organization that works to archive the entire internet.

It’s actually pretty fascinating overall, but it’s also a long tangent that I don’t want to take you through right this minute.

What you need to know about internet archives is that they create permanent backups of lots and lots of websites.

The goal is to archive everything on the internet for the sake of posterity, but the internet is a big place that changes fast, so the people running archives do the best that they can.

As a result, things get backed up at different rates and priorities.

Unfortunately, social media websites get the most traffic on the internet, so they tend to be prioritized.

On the bright side, this means that whenever a prominent person puts out a dumb tweet and then deletes it, you can pull that tweet off of the archives to make sure they never live it down.

On the downside, it means that the internet archives might have backed up your accidental post.

Back to the bright side, it’s easy to check.

Just look up your Instagram for the time that the post was up using this link.

If you see it, then the post is archived.

If you don’t see it, then the archives didn’t back up this particular post, and you’re good to go!

If the accidental post was archived, you’re not out of luck.

You can contact the people who run the archive (using the link I already provided), and you can explain the situation.

It’s ultimately up to them what they choose to do, but if it’s a personal post and they don’t have a good reason to save it, they’ll take it down.

One last thing you need to know.

While the archive exists (assuming it even does exist), other users can potentially find it and take screenshots of the picture.

So if this is something you really don’t want on the internet, check the archives sooner rather than later.

#4 Screen Captures

Young girl with long hair standing by a window and thinking about something she sees on her smartphone

There’s one other thing to cover.

Instagram allows you to post videos.

In fact, there’s a ton of video content on Instagram.

The thing is, screenshots aren’t very good at capturing videos.

In fact, a screenshot will only capture a single frame of a video.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that copying Instagram videos is difficult.

We’ve been talking about photos so far, but all of this applies to videos too.

With any number of free screen recording apps, someone can copy a video that you didn’t mean to post.

You can deal with video posts using the same links in the previous sections.

It’s really all the same thing, but I didn’t want to leave anyone with a false sense of security.

Taking down videos requires the same effort and level of scrutiny.