Why Celebrities Are Quitting Twitter

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.”

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***.”

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.

How the Nature of Popularity Was Changed by Social Media

There aren’t many aspects of the human experience that haven’t been affected by the mass proliferation of social media over the past decade. From our way we interact with our friends to the way we find our booty calls, age-old rituals are squeezed through a digital prism and come out on the other side looking markedly different than before.

Our lives are so changed by its all-consuming omnipresence that writing about all the ways that social media has reconfigured the world has become a steady stream of income for internet commentators such as myself.

In a recent installment of New York Magazine’s “popular” column – a regular series investigating “the pain and joys of fitting in” – the author assessed the ways that social media has changed the nature of popularity and came to the conclusion that it has made it predictable, boring and more of a job than an enviable social privilege.

This makes sense: with so much money to be made from social media, and many of the methods to grow your following mapped out in widely-available books and online guides, nurturing your social media presence has a professional incentive that often fosters a professional approach. But what doesn’t get mentioned as much is how social media has changed the fundamental nature of popularity by presenting it through a nerd’s-eye-view.

Popularity Is Now Quantifiable

Popularity, as NY Mag points out, used to have an intangible, unquantifiable quality to it. On social media, however, it’s the opposite: easily measured in followers, likes, retweets and all those other metrics that marketers use to calculate engagement. They can be tallied up, assessed and ranked.

It’s cold and logical, like mathematics, because it’s pretty much a digital simulation of human interaction by tech geeks. Social media is how socially-awkward Silicon Valley programmers imagine that socializing looks like in the real world. The accumulation of popularity on social media works much like a video game: with the correct input – a pithy tweet, a sexy Instagram photo, a cat video – you’re rewarded with the positive reinforcement of engagement, and the more engagement you get the more “popular” you are.

It’s all as binary as a computer’s code and doesn’t take into account the many intangible X-factors that define IRL, flesh-and-blood popularity: charisma, social intelligence, learned behaviors, peer approval, genetics and countless other variables. Not that this is much of a surprise: after all, I doubt that Mark Zuckerberg got many nominations for prom king, and if The Social Network is anything to go by, he seems to have less friends than I have Snapchat followers (I don’t have Snapchat).

Popularity on social media is as mechanical as seduction in “Pick Up Artistry” circles, because it’s the result of bookish minds analyzing human behaviors and attempting to break them down into hyper-rational formulae.

This is part of the reason why popularity on social media doesn’t usually translate to popularity into the real world. Sure, some people may be popular on social media precisely because they’re popular IRL or have a huge media presence elsewhere, like, say, Selena Gomez or Kylie Jenner, but digital popularity is so unlike its physical counterpart that it rarely carries over.

Not only that, but our social media profiles are usually false personas; projections of the people that we would like to be rather than reflections of who we really are. You might be able create a really sassy avatar of yourself on Twitter, but that’s because you have the mental space and time to invest a half hour into a single snappy tweet. In the real work you have to be quick-witted and confident; you need a mastery of timing and tone to pull of the same feat.

To stick with the current example, Twitter is medium dominated by journalists. In my professional life I’ve had the opportunity to meet numerous writers that have tens of thousands of followers and have locked down that wry tone that works so well in tweets, and I’ve always been astounded how many of them mumble through sentences and struggle to maintain eye contact when they’re forced to interact with an actual human being.

At its worst, social media is a tool for people to compensate for all the personal or physical qualities that they lack, and Instagram is another good example of this. The internet is full of guides on how to make yourself look more attractive than you actually are, because hot people quite obviously get more follows on a platform that focuses purely on aesthetics. As most of us are aware, though, this doesn’t always carry over to real life. What’s that old saying? “Nobody looks like Victoria’s Secret models, not even Victoria’s Secret models”?

Social Media Popularity Is Really About Sales

In this sense, popularity on social media is, in fact, the polar opposite of popularity in reality: while real-world adoration is something to be craved because it opens doors to parties, sex, career advancement, social capital and all sorts of pleasures, on social media it becomes a cage, trapping us online because the things that make us likable in the digital realm sometimes don’t exist beyond it.

But that’s the thing: popularity on social media and popularity in the real world shouldn’t be discussed on the same terms, because social media ultimately wasn’t made to foster popularity or even sociability, but salability.

Every social media platform is, in essence, a marketing tool. Initially it offers fun incentives to reel in users, and slowly it begins to monetize that audience by acting as an advertising space that links brands to masses of potential consumers.

Just look at Twitter’s short, succinct format: tweets are the perfect vessel for ad copy. Instagram allows us to visually distort our image and adopt the qualities of a billboard. This is intentional: it blurs the divide between advertising and content so that the former is more readily accepted by consumers. We might download ad-blockers or go to the toilet during TV commercial breaks, but on social media we willingly and enthusiastically open ourselves to advertising by following Instagram influencers and, ultimately, by marketing ourselves.

To paraphrase former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher: “marketing is the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.”  By making the personal and the commercial indistinguishable from one another, social media has succeeded in doing exactly that.

Instagram Is Terrible for Your Mental Health, Studies Find

It’s hardly news that social media exacerbates mental health problems and generally makes everyone feel a little worse about themselves, but apparently some are worse than others.

A new study conducted by the Young Health Movement and the Royal Society for Public Health surveyed 1,500 14 to 24-year-olds about the effects five social media platforms have on their mental wellbeing.

Instagram was found to be the worst platform, with Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter also having an negative effect. Participants in the research said that social media was worsening bullying, body image anxiety, and feelings of depression and loneliness.

For its part, Instagram has recently addressed mental health problems in its community with its “HereForYou” campaign to highlight and support people sharing mental health stories on the app.

YouTube was the only social network that was actually a positive presence in teen’s lives. Though the video site negatively affect young people’s sleep, something that I think we can all understand, participants said that it lessened feelings of loneliness and depression, offered emotional support and gave them an understanding of other people’s experiences.

Twitter Removes @username Replies From the 140-Character Limit

Last year, Twitter promised to roll out some updates that would allow users to express more than 140 characters. In the months since, it’s done exactly that, but now it’s taking things a step further by finally eliminating @username replies from the character limit. The change also simplifies conversations in a few different ways:

– Who you are replying to will appear above the Tweet text rather than within the Tweet text itself, so you have more characters to have conversations.

– You can tap on “Replying to…” to easily see and control who’s part of your conversation.
When reading a conversation, you’ll actually see what people are saying, rather than seeing lots of @usernames at the start of a Tweet.

– It’s now easier to follow a conversation, so you can focus on what a discussion is about, and who is having it. Also, with all 140 characters for your replies, you have more room to participate in group conversations.

The update is rolling out now on twitter.com and the latest versions of the iOS and Android apps.

This Alarming Infographic Shows How Much Time We Spend on Social Media

If you’re worried that you might be spending too much time procrastinating on Instagram and Facebook rather than actually doing anything productive, then fear not, for it appears you’re not alone. New statistics on the average person’s social media consumption habits have emerged courtesy of Mediakix, and the results make for some grim reading.

According to the article, global social media marketing spending is set to hit $36 billion this year, with $12.5 billion of that being spent in the U.S and Canada. Two years ago, it’s estimated that people spent more time on mobile apps than they did watching television, and, terrifyingly, the advent of functions such as Facebook Video and Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, and Snapchat Spectacles is only set to increase that growth further.

The infographic below estimates the average person spends five years and four months on socials in a lifetime. Yes, five years. That’s longer than the wait between Frank Ocean albums. Unsurprisingly, Facebook remains the most popular platform, followed by YouTube. Snapchat is in third, but for how much longer given the rise of Instagram stories?

So, what could you be doing instead of perusing the feed of some stranger who you’ve never — and probably will never — meet? You could fly to the moon and back for starters. Scroll below to find out more.

As we said, grim. How much time do you reckon you spend on the above channels? Let us know in the comments.

People On Twitter Are Going Nuts Over This Unusually Warm Weather

As anyone enjoying temperatures of 60 degrees and higher will be glad to tell you — and right now, that’s a good chunk of the United States — spring has come early this year. Unseasonably warm days are rolling through the country and even into Canada, with people providing a nationwide running commentary on Twitter. But as those tracking spring’s spread for the U.S. Geological Survey point out, this much warmth this early isn’t necessarily good news.

The problem isn’t just that such unseasonable warmth is one more reminder of global warming — and yes, for those keeping track of whether the Trump administration is cracking down on research, the USGS page does still discuss climate change’s role in the early spring. Climate change is a major long-term problem, but there are plenty of immediate issues that come with an early spring.

As the USGS points out, pollen and disease-carrying pests like ticks and mosquitos all become threats to human health earlier. A longer growing season seems like it ought to be a benefit, but early planting could put crops at risk if temperatures suddenly drop again or if the summer proves too hot. The agency even notes that early blooms can throw off the delicate ecosystem balance between flowers and the animals that eat or pollinate them.

It’s more or less possible through social media to reconstruct the spread of the early spring, which the USGS researchers say has begun about two to three weeks earlier than it ought to have, based on comparisons of this year’s temperatures with three decades’ worth of historical data. Moving south to north (albeit not in strict chronological order), we see just how thoroughly spring has sprung.

But the story isn’t just about the unusually high temperatures. Much of the country has experienced intense swings from cold to hot and back again, wreaking havoc on the weather.

The common refrains of “strange” and “crazy” to describe the conditions suggest those tweeting believe something is seriously amiss, and some are willing to go ahead and name the potential culprit.

‘Friending’ Your Ex on Social Media Could Doom Your Current Relationship

This Valentine’s Day, you’re likely doing one of two things: Celebrating the success of your present relationship, or ignoring the fact that you aren’t in one. (Both of these are fine positions to be in on a consumer holiday such as this one!) Regardless of where you’re at on the commitment spectrum, a new study has some solid advice for anyone using social media: Don’t “friend” your ex.

Joyce Baptist, a Kansas State University marriage and family therapy associate professor, found that crossing relationship boundaries online can cause serious damage. In a study of nearly 7,000 couples who use social media, Baptist found that for couples in which one or both partners communicated with someone they find physically attractive online, which she labeled “boundary crossing,” the more damage can be done to the relationship.

But before you go trolling your SO’s Facebook account for evidence of shady behavior, the study says there’s a difference between “boundary crossing” and what Baptist calls “boundary violation.”

A crossing is when a partner brushes a proverbial guard rail, possibly by having platonic but frequent contact with another individual he or she finds attractive. Boundary violation, on the other hand, may be emotional or physical infidelity, Baptist says.

Without an honest conversation outlining these “guard rails,” or what both partners feel is or isn’t appropriate behavior online, then someone can easily have their feelings hurt by what their partner does on social media. Furthermore, the study found that while some people accepted that their partner interacted or flirted with an ex online, it didn’t necessarily mean they were cool with it.

“Although they may say, ‘I trust you and it’s OK,’ they are not happy about it,” Baptist said. “They eventually perceive that their significant other is spending too much time connecting with others on social media rather than paying attention to their own partner.”

And that perceived threat may not be so innocent after all. “Keeping lines of communication open with former significant others can become a slippery slope,” the study found, “because relationships naturally have peaks and valleys. During a relationship’s lower points, a person may be tempted to confide in a previous partner.”

So what’s the best way to ensure your partner isn’t harboring some kind of grudge about you liking your ex’s Facebook status? Use your words. Describe what you’re comfortable with rather than what you’ll merely put up with. According to the study, Baptist says “couples ought to share not only what they are willing to tolerate but also what they would prefer so the couple can create a secure and satisfying relationship.”

Twitter Overhauls Their Abuse Tools And Starts Blocking Trolls

Is Twitter the worst cesspool on the internet? Between the harassment campaigns, the utterly creepy behavior of, say, Martin Shkreli, and just the fact that seeing an egg avatar makes many people either roll their eyes or shudder, it can definitely feel like it. Over the last year, though, Twitter seems to have finally gotten the memo and it’s adding some new tools to keep the assorted clowns and trolls at bay.

The company is rolling out three changes to limit abuse. First, the company says it’s “taking steps” to find people who are consistently abusive and enforce that permanent ban the abusers keep trying to get around with new accounts. The second and third changes mostly have to do with search and what you see. Soon, when you search a hashtag or a term on Twitter, you won’t automatically see garbage from blocked or muted accounts. Over the next few weeks, “low quality” and abusive replies will also be collapsed and thus harder to find in conversation threads.

While this isn’t the booting of the neo-Nazis many would like to see, it’s a useful set of tools on paper. But we won’t know how effective it is until the next hate-fueled hissy fit.

New Poll Shows Voters Want Trump to Delete His Twitter Account

If you think president-elect Donald Trump shouldn’t be spending the weeks leading up to his inauguration tweeting about Saturday Night Live and Meryl Streep, you’re not alone. A majority of Americans would like president-elect Donald Trump to get rid of his personal Twitter account, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.

Almost 900 people were surveyed for the poll, which was broken down by age, race, political affiliation, and education. Sixty-four percent said Trump should not keep his personal Twitter account when he assumes the presidency and just 32 percent said he should (the rest didn’t know or had no opinion).

Those results were pretty much the same across race, education, and most age groups, but there were big differences when it came to gender and political affiliation. While just 27 percent of women said Trump should keep his personal account, 37 percent of men thought he should. And while 49 percent of Republicans apparently thought Trump’s reactionary, contradictory, and often uniformed tweets about actresses, Russia, and cars built in Mexico were a good idea, 80 percent of Democrats thought Trump should delete his personal account.

Age-wise, a bigger percentage of voters between 18 and 34 years old thought Trump should delete his personal account (71 percent) compared to the total. The other age groups mirrored the total pretty closely.

Trump’s tweets have come under fire for the way he lashes out at individuals, other countries, and companies alike. While Trump has been reluctant to hold press conference and go into detail about his policies or plans, he seemingly jumps at the chance to get into the fray by tossing out a few tweet-proclamations in response to press reports he doesn’t like.

Once Trump is sworn into office, he will inherit the @POTUS Twitter account from President Obama, from which he can presumably tweet whatever he wants. Whether he’ll also use his personal account to continue responding to his critics remains to be seen.

The Next President Will Get Obama’s 11 Million Twitter Followers

When Obama became president in 2008, his role came with a brand new Twitter account @POTUS. However, this election season will mark not only a peaceful transfer of power in The White House, but online as well. According to The White House, on January 20 2017, the @POTUS account will be given to the new President to use, while all of Obama’s previous tweets on the account will be moved to his new, official Former President account at @POTUS44. The same goes for Michelle Obama’s @FLOTUS account, which will be given to the new First Lady (or First Gentleman, in which case the handle may be @FGOTUS) and all previous tweets transferred to @FLOTUS44. So all current followers of POTUS and FLOTUS will automatically follow whoever wins the election on November 8.