Delete Your Account: How to Maintain Yourself In the Age of the Selfie

Earlier this year, we lost Justin Bieber on Instagram. Then Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez dropped off the face of the internet. And now recent personal events have led even Kim Kardashian to take a social media sabbatical. So what does that mean for the rest of us?

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It’s been over a week since Kim Kardashian last posted on social media. I don’t want to call the resulting hole in my life “gaping,” but it’s a noticeable loss. And if any of you 84.9 million Instagram followers want to claim that you haven’t felt it, too — even subconsciously — well, you’re lying.

Her hiatus is a direct result of the traumatic robbery she experienced while in Paris for Fashion Week in the beginning of October. Following the events, she boarded an airplane shrouded in a black sheet like a woman in mourning. Back in New York, her husband, Kanye West, walked off stage in the middle of his set at The Meadows festival and rescheduled two upcoming Saint Pablo shows.

Soon thereafter, it was announced that Kardashian would not only be scaling back posting on social media, but that filming of Keeping Up With The Kardashians would also come to a halt; Kim, shocking as it sounds, would partake in no entrepreneurial endeavors for the next month. Plus, she also deleted her Paris Instagram selfie depicting a diamond grill and her multi-million dollar ring, which was lost in the robbery. According to reports, police officials believe flashy posts of this nature made her a “target.”

Karl Lagerfeld, of all people, then echoed this tone of bourgeoisie victim-blaming at, of all places, Paris Fashion Week. “You cannot display your wealth and then be surprised that some people want to share it with you,” he told Reuters. The rumor-mongers also circled, speculating that Kardashian planned the robbery for attention or insurance. Many fans — if you can call them that — responded by saying that she “deserved it.”

At this point, it’s not worth spending any more time pointing out how absurd, hurtful, and simply unhelpful this line of questioning is. Instead, it might be worth reflecting on what is gained and lost by our own presence on social media. Are there smaller-scale, everyday consequences? And, if so, is hitting “delete” the best way to preserve one’s mental, emotional, and physical self? According to some of our favorite social media celebrities, (and Hillary Clinton, who tweeted “Delete your account” in response to one of Trump’s jabs), the answer is “yes.”

In August this summer, Justin Bieber decided to delete his Instagram account following a public war of words with his ex-girlfriend, Selena Gomez, over his new flame Sofia Richie. This was just months after he posted that he would no longer be taking photos with fans. “It has gotten to the point that people won’t even say ‘hi’ to me or recognize me as a human,” he said.” I feel like a zoo animal, and I wanna be able to keep my sanity.”

That same month, the Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley also deleted her account as the result of intense cyber-bullying. In September, Kanye West got rid of his phone and hasn’t tweeted since. And Taylor Swift has essentially deleted herself from social media since being outed by Kim Kardashian for her phone call with Kanye West regarding his infamous line in “Famous.” Since June, she’s only posted 10 times on Instagram, and mostly in support of her friends.

Selena Gomez also hasn’t posted on Instagram in eight weeks since announcing that she was cancelling her tour due to “anxiety and depression.” It may sound trivial in the grand scheme of things, but this is a momentous shift for public figures who used to post multiple times a day for an audience of millions reacting to their every move. One might even call it a crisis.

Last year, the then 18-year-old Australian model Essena O’Neill was the first to pop the seemingly-perfect social media bubble when she made headlines for deleting her 2,000 Instagram posts, which had gained her over 600,000 followers. She then renamed the account “Social Media Is Not Real Life,” and went on to divulge the extreme measures she’d gone to curate her “life” up until that moment. In a tearful video in which she explains her decision (that now has over one million views), she said: “Taking myself off social media is a wake-up call for anyone and everyone who followed me.” She continued: “If you could do one thing for me, it would be to turn off your phone.”

This week on the “Ellen Degeneres Show,” Khloe Kardashian used almost the exact same wording in reference to her sister’s recent lifestyle changes as a result of the robbery. “I think it’s just a wake-up call to make a lot of life adjustments,” she said. For now, this means taking a break from the public eye and spending more time with her family. But how will we adjust as her followers?

It’s easy to say that we should turn off our phones and delete our accounts, too. It’s certainly not news that we could all benefit from disconnecting once in a while. As Andrew Sullivan wrote in a recent New York magazine cover story titled “I Used to Be a Human Being“: “An endless bombardment of news and gossip and images has rendered us manic information addicts. It broke me. It might break you, too.” But his point, while honest and likely true, might be entirely moot. At the end of the day, whether we’re on social media or not it is shaping our lives as we speak.

What’s different now, however, is that mega-celebrities like Kardashian, Swift, and Bieber — the prime examples of the only measurable benefit of social media, which is commercial success — are saying they don’t even want it anymore. It’s not worth it to them. In the case of Kardashian, it literally almost cost her her life.

The question, then, is: Do they in fact need social media? What happens when celebrities just live their lives? Does anyone remember? Many big names (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie being one relevant example) have proven that preemptively deleting yourself by having no social media presence from the get-go is one effective route. But is it possible to successfully retreat after you’ve already broken the internet? For us plebes, it feels a little bit like being invited to a party only to have the hosts leave mid-way through the night. They’ll be fine, but how will we go on?

So yes, maybe take a week off from social media. Heck, even a month. But if there’s one thing we can glean from the loss of our favorite celebrities on social media, it’s that in today’s age it’s possible to be deleted and still exist.