I am building a dating website, which contains a messaging system. On each conversation I display the username and avatar image of the person you are talking to.

Users have the ability, at any time to deactivate their account. That is for example if they have found someone and are no longer looking, but don't want to permanently delete their account in case they want to start looking again in the future. Whilst their account is deactivated, their profile no longer appears in the search results and their profile cannot be accessed via its URL.

My question is, what should happen on the conversations that they are participating in whilst their account is deactivated?

Should I replace the user's username with a placeholder like (unknown user) and likewise replace their avatar with a placeholder image?

OR should I keep their username and avatar displayed but show a message saying Sorry, this user is no longer available?

Of course I could just make the conversation disappear, but I don't really want to do this, in case the user has sent an abusive message before deactivating their account - I would like the recipient to be able to report the message.

2 Answers 2


Show the Avatar & Username in the conversations with a additional information "deactivated" or "dating break". Just for the transparency.

But if you look at Discord's approach on handling this, you can see they delete the avatar and the username and call the user "Deleted User#0000" if the user decides to delete their account. If they choose to disable it, the Username and Avatar will stay as before.

No matter what, disabling or even deleting you account will never delete any private messages or uploaded media (except avatar).


All conversations will be logged and stored, so they will never be deleted in real. All deleted/deactivated users' data will be maintained intact till 3-5 years. Therefore, any report against a user should be trackable.

In my past projects, we only deleted the contact info (but that is contextual). The duration of the member's participation is freezed and any other status. Everything is greyed out with a tag as caution that the member is 'Inactive'. Deactivated members do not show up in search results and therefore are hidden from public as much as possible except private conversations. Displaying the image in the conversations does not do any harm. But displaying a default grey avatar increases affordance that the user is not available.

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