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WhatsApp: This is how you use self-deleting messages & photos

WhatsApp: This is how you use self-deleting messages & photos

WhatsApp has offered us self-destructing messages for some time now. However, self-destructing images have also been made possible with the popular instant messenger. NextPit will walk you through in this tutorial.

Last year, WhatsApp for iOS and Android introduced the ability to include self-destructing messages in your chats. Perhaps this is not as nicely executed as the disappearing messages mechanism at Signal. At least the Facebook subsidiary allows us to activate automatic deletion after seven days for every chat.

In addition, there is also now the option of displaying photos and videos only once, although the rollout of this feature has been rather slow. In this post, we will explain both options to you so that you can enjoy an even more secure instant messaging experience while having less housekeeping to do on your smartphone. The instructions work on both iOS and Android versions of the app. 

Table of contents: 


WhatsApp: Send media for one-time viewing

You can send photos or videos on WhatsApp, and they will disappear as soon as the recipient has viewed them and closed the media viewer. As soon as the media viewer is closed, the photo or video will disappear from the chat. You won't be able to find the media in your gallery anymore, and this also means that they cannot be forwarded! This is how you use the feature:

  1. Open an individual or group chat.
  2. Tap the camera icon to take a photo or video, or to select one image from your album. Alternatively, you can also select attachments.
  3. Now tap on the icon with the "1" as is marked by the square in the screenshots above. A confirmation message will then appear in the center of the image that you want to have it viewed only once.
  4. Tap "Send".
WhatsApp Disappearing Pictures
If the icon turns green, the one-time function is activated / © NextPit

This function was previously available only for photos and videos, and will be available for regular text messages in the future. As soon as this feature can be used, we will add it to this guide accordingly.

WhatsApp: Activating or deactivating self-destruct messages

The option to activate self-destruct messages in chats has been available for a long time. However, you will have to set this function separately for each chat, as there is no global option available. You also have no influence on how long the messages will be retained, as they automatically disappear after seven days has passed. This is how it works:

  1. Open the corresponding WhatsApp chat.
  2. Tap the name of the contact or group.
  3. Select "Disappearing messages".
  4. When prompted, tap "CONTINUE" (Android) or "Continue" (iOS).
  5. Select "On" to enable or "Off" to disable this feature.
WhatsApp Disappearing Messages
Disappearing messages can also be enabled in group chats  / © NextPit

Do take note that in a group chat, although all participants can enable or disable disappearing messages, a group administrator can change the settings accordingly to override your preference. This is only possible for admins!

Regardless, be a responsible user

Even if WhatsApp now offers us more options in handling our messages and photos that no longer have to remain in the chat forever, we should always be careful and responsible with what we share! Always verify information and news before sending them out, as once fake news ends up as viral, it might cause untold headache or damage.

If someone doesn't open WhatsApp for 7 days, messages or photos will automatically disappear. However, the user may still see the message preview in the notifications until the moment WhatsApp is launched. You should also be careful with replies and forwarded messages: If you reply to a disappearing message, the quoted text may still remain in the chat after 7 days. If this message is forwarded to a chat in which disappearing messages have been disabled, the message does not disappear there either.

If a backup was performed before the message is deleted, it will be saved there. However, it will disappear when the backup is restored.


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Regardless of which setting you have chosen to use with WhatsApp: consider the type of messages or media that you share over the instant messenger! The recipient may have enabled automatic backup. In this case, such information will still end up on the recipient's smartphone and will only disappear once the chat is opened.

In addition, there is of course the possibility for your recipient taking screenshots at any time, and thus keep a record the photos and videos that you have sent for one-time viewing purposes. Basically, however, we should always bear in mind that we are responsible for handling the data that we disseminate in instant messaging apps.

In my opinion, WhatsApp could improve even further and give us a global setting as well as additional options when it comes to the amount of time a message or image can be viewed. Until then, we will have to be content with what WhatsApp offers, and we hope that the NextPit community will have a clearer idea on how to enable or disable disappearing messages. Let us know if you use the disappearing messages option or couldn't care less about them. 

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  • Bobby Goreja 6 days ago Link to comment

    Did'nt find such a great explaination anywhere else.
    Thank you so much !