Ed Sheeran announced this week he is quitting Twitter. This isn’t exactly earth-shattering news—Sheeran quit social media for all of 2016—but more follows with an increasing trend of celebrities removing themselves from social media narratives. To Sheeran, the massive negativity had affected his day-to-day experiences.
“I go on it and there’s nothing but people saying mean things. Twitter’s a platform for that,” he told The Sun. “One comment ruins your day. But that’s why I’ve come off it.”
We’ve seen numerous high-profile celebrities quit Twitter and other social platforms over the past few years. Kanye West deleted his Twitter and Instagram, in part, because it distracted from his creative process. Justin Bieber left Instagram following disparaging comments on posts featuring his then-partner Sofia Richie. At a concert he said Instagram is “for the devil” and that it’s “hell.”
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You could list dozens of celebrities who have quit social media—and some sites do exactly that—but it always reduces to a simple reason: once a therapeutic, convivial town square, these platforms have transformed into hotbeds for negativity, trolling, and groupthink. Quantity is valued over quality and possibly apocryphal stories are accepted as fact.
Sheeran’s public Twitter departure revolves around one such incident. While performing at Glastonbury Festival this summer, skeptics accused Sheeran of using a backing track. Now this is quite the ridiculous assertion. Sheeran conspiculously performs alone and uses a loop pedal in his live shows, which is impressive enough. But the only reason I know this is because every Ed Sheeran fan won’t shut up about it. To them, this validates every belief they hold regarding Sheeran’s genuine “real”-ness other pop stars lack. Believe that if you want—I lack a strong opinion either way, Sheeran’s just a fine act to my ears—but who are these people who a) feel compelled enough to post such accusations and b) don’t have any Ed Sheeran fans in their life! Literally approach a crowd of white kids and you’ll find about 12 who will mention loop pedals with five minutes of talking to them.
As Sheeran mentioned to The Sun, “So I think Twitter gets on a massive steam roll of assuming things and then you get in the s***.”
Never thought I'd have to explain it, but everything I do in my live show is live, it's a loop station, not a backing track. Please google x
— Ed Sheeran (@edsheeran) June 26, 2017
Twitter is a place where trolls thrive. As Charlie Warzel exhaustively documented on Buzzfeed, Twitter has routinely failed in addressed the abuse that lives on its platform. Instagram, meanwhile, has made some efforts in curbing negativity, but if Bieber can’t even use the app, what hope is there for other celebrities—let alone regular people like us.
“Trolling can make results very difficult to sort through,” digital strategist Lauren Hudgins told Mashable. “You don’t know if the people responding are a potential audience or just jerks with a molehill to die on.”
Imagine that level of negativity directed your way 24/7, especially if it were about your creative endeavors, like Sheeran’s was. What’s really bonkers is that Sheeran’s controversy is a light one, all things considered. The vitriol women receive on a daily basis just for existing and holding opinions doesn’t even compare.
“The head-f*** for me has been trying to work out why people dislike me so much,” Sheeran said.
Like everyone else online, Sheeran was placing value on the loudest voices, the trolls. This trend of celebrities quitting Twitter is indicative of how repugnant the platform has become. If you have any doubts regarding that, just open your Twitter account. You’ll find the negativity you weren’t looking for.