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The last good place on the internet—Britney Spears’ Instagram, duh—is no longer. The pop princess, who’s been freshly released from her shady conservatorship, went out with a bang. Specifically, she posted a snap of her bikini-clad bum with the caption “Here’s my ass,” and the news that she became engaged to boyfriend Sam Asghari. Then, overnight, the feed disappeared.
According to Page Six, there’s nothing to worry about. Spears just needed a reset. As an “insider” told the tabloid, “She’s happy and in a great place, and silence can be a powerful thing and a powerful message. This was her decision.” The singer tweeted as much, writing: “Don’t worry folks… just taking a little break from social media to celebrate my engagement... I’ll be back soon!”
She’s not the only one. Vogue’s October cover star, Lorde, explained in her profile why she’s been off of the social media grid since 2018: “I could sense that it would be very bad for the work and for me if I stayed online,” she said, adding “I started to see the phone as a portal. I can’t keep going through that portal, in the same way that I wouldn’t just take mushrooms all these moments of a day. It’s too deep a tunnel.” A “coder friend” even helped her block certain sites on all of her devices.
Despite being seemingly everywhere—Time’s list of Most Influential People, podcasts galore, a boho-chic couch with Oprah and on a loop in Piers Morgan’s consciousness—Meghan Markle does not have an Instagram. She deleted her social media after becoming engaged to Prince Harry. The couple stopped updating their joint @SussexRoyal account earlier this year.
And then there are members of the so-called “Cancel Club,” as Chrissy Teigen called it. After Courtney Stodden revealed in an interview with The Daily Beast that the former “Mayor of Twitter” sent her abusive DMs in 2011, Teigen quit Twitter and took a step back from Instagram for a bit. But now she’s back on it broadcasting her cross-country travels—including an invite to Barack Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard birthday party—to her 35 million followers.
After decamping to a luxury, beachfront Miami condo upon leaving DC, Ivanka Trump has managed to stay off of social media. It’s almost impressive; that’s no small feat for a #girlboss who used to spend most of her days trying to hashtag her way into convincing us that she is a #womanwhoworks.
You might see a tumbleweed on her Instagram grid, which was once a carousel of MAGA propaganda in the runup to the 2020 election. The only time she’s posted has been to share photos that show her getting both Pfizer vaccines—which many of her anti-vax fans shamed her for taking.
So yes, while the rest of us have invested in blue light glasses, ergonomic swivel chairs, standing desks, and other products which represent our descent into work-from-home, arch-capitalist hell, heading offline becomes a new way to flex. As Vogue asked earlier this year after Italian fashion house Bottega Veneta deleted its Instagram, “Is Logging Off the Ultimate Fashion Luxury?”
Reena B. Patel, a behavioral analyst and licensed educational psychologist based in San Diego, has consulted with influencer branding agencies on the topic of online burnout. “[Influencers] themselves say social media is too much,” she told The Daily Beast. “They are the models who will be the ones who start that domino effect and let everyone else know its ok [to logoff]. I tell them that of the healthiest things you can do is test yourself to see if you can actually push pause. Step away for two to three months, or even just a week.”
Patel advises her clients to let their followers know about any breaks ahead of time. “Set up boundaries and expectations, and do not be afraid to say no,” she said. “Ask yourself, when is it healthy to turn it all off? When you question your own authenticity, when it impacts your ability to sleep or eat, if it keeps you from connecting with friends physically—those are red flags.”
Another red flag, as anyone who has spent a minute online this year can tell you: Twitter vitriol and social media drama has reached a nearly unbearable peak. This week’s Met Gala, once a stodgy fundraiser for a public museum, turned into an all-out culture war after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez showed up wearing a dress which blared “Tax the Rich.” Pretty much everyone can agree that social media sucks—including, it appears, the people who started it.
As The Wall Street Journal reported, Facebook execs have known of and studied reports that show how harmful Instagram is for its young teenage audience, even though the leaders continue to downplay these facts during public appearances and Congressional hearings.
Even Lorde in her Vogue interview admitted it’s a “privilege” to live off of the virtual grid. So maybe the hottest trend of the fall won’t be something you can wear, but a turned-off phone that’s tucked away in a dark drawer. If you can afford it.