When Hillary Clinton told Donald Trump to delete his Twitter account, it might have been one of the more notable political insults of the election cycle, but for some deleting their social accounts might actually be the ultimate power move. On Tuesday, Justin Bieber deleted his Instagram account after a tiff with his ex-girlfriend Selena Gomez. He relinquished his enviable 77 million followers in the process. The next morning, the sun still rose and the earth continued to spin.
Bieber, for his part, remains as famous as ever. Although the 22-year-old singer may no longer be the sixth most-followed person Instagram, his latest collaboration with Major Lazer remains number two on the American charts, and number one in Great Britain (where it's in danger of being overthrown, but only by Bieber's other recent EDM collaboration with DJ Snake).
In fact, Bieber's decision to ditch the image sharing social network might only cement his status and stature. His following in real life wasn't in any way significantly harmed by his abdicating a healthy chunk of his following in cyberspace.
Sure there are some celebrities (both of the actual and pretend type) who might see their influence and relevance wither and die away if it weren't for their steady stream of selectively shared social content. Their sense of self might suffer a still worse fate without their daily intake of "likes" and e-attention.
Bieber himself was once in that boat. He was discovered, after all, on YouTube, and relied on his legion of young fans to ensure that he would trend across the world wide web. Those early hashtags might have done just as much to cement Bieber as an object of fascination as his early singles did (is anyone out there really still bumping songs like "Eenie Meenie").
But perhaps everyone who obtains a measure of fame thanks in part to social media has to wonder if they can maintain it without it.
Bieber certainly can. The current chapter of his career kicked of by "Where Are ü Now" has seen people gladly exchanging $1.99 on iTunes for his latest single even if they might be the type who'd be embarrassed to click "follow" on any of Bieber's accounts. "Sorry" found itself stuck in the types of heads that might not have ever contained the information that Bieber once dated Selana Gomez. It's telling that the much beloved video for that single didn't even include Bieber himself.
He's cemented himself as a reliable source of quality output. An actual musician notable for music, in addition to celebrity. Extracting himself from the social scene (and eliminating the number of accidental headlines that can be produced after perceived slip ups) might further move him away from the perception he's someone who has to rely on a loyal core of fans.
And sure, some of those core fans may feel a bit betrayed at the moment, but they'll be fine in the long run. Yes, Bieber's Instagram account might have been particularly intimate. While some stars prefer sharing a stream of carefully posed and planed shots, Bieber preferred a string of spontaneous selfies and pictures of himself thoughtfully enjoying nature. The first time he posted his own rear it might have been a watershed moment in this wild new era of straight male self-objectification we're living in. There'll be things to miss about the @JustinBieber account, but it's not like the world will stop receiving a new batch of Bieber photos every time he leaves the house (besides, it's not like there's much of Bieber we haven't seen).
Young Biebs isn't the only star to deleter their accounts.
Daisy Ridley deleted her account earlier this month after taking heat for comments supporting gun control, but she'll be fine. She's still the current face of Star Wars, the biggest movie franchise of all time.
Follower count might seem like some sort of objective measure of fame of power, but when you truly do achieve that fame the only move more powerful than obtaining 78 million followers in the first place is walking away from them.
Of course, we all expect Bieber to return to the site someday, but maybe it's best he pull a Rihanna and remain off the grid for a few months.
An homage to Justin Bieber's now-deleted Instagram:
Watch noted Belieber Marion Cotillard explain why Justin Bieber's movie made her cry: