There have been multiple reports that overuse of social media is a bad habit many people should break, but on Tuesday UK pop star Ed Sheeran announced his return with a candid Instagram video. The “Bad Habits” hitmaker had been essentially in “radio silence” on the platform for more than two months – while he had posted infrequently even before then.
The singer promised to be more engaged with fans now that he’s back.
“I realize I haven’t been that engaged in my social media or my fan base online over the last couple of years,” the 31-year-old singer said in the post to his 42 million followers.
This isn’t the first time Sheeran has stepped away from regular posts to his followers but explained that there was more to it this go around. He confessed that he had “some turbulent things” happening in his personal life, and felt the need for a more extended break.
“I just didn’t really feel like being online and pretending to be something I’m not when I wasn’t feeling like that,” Sheeran said in his post. “I know that sounds weird, but hence I’m making this video to say things are looking up and I’m back online.”
“Perfect” Timing For a Return
It could be noted that his return comes just months in advance of the North American leg of his +–=÷× Tour (pronounced as the Mathematics Tour), which is slated to begin in May. After a three-year hiatus following his record-breaking The Divide Tour, Sheeran had topped Billboard’s Top Ticket Sales chart after playing to more than three million fans in Europe last year.
It is likely he doesn’t want to miss out on audience anticipation by being absent from social media.
“We can’t overstate the powerful marketing tool that social media platforms like Instagram are for celebrities,” said brand marketing expert and social media pundit Scott Steinberg.
“At the same time, every word they make can be scrutinized and that can take a toll,” Steinberg explained. “That is why it isn’t all that uncommon for many A-listers to purposely take a mental break. It is like going on a sabbatical, which can be needed as they’re constantly posting day in and day out.”
Another question might be what celebrities actually owe their fans, suggested technology industry analyst Susan Schreiner of C4 Trends. That includes posting to social media.
“Fans and celebrities have a symbiotic relationship – but sometimes fans live vicariously through their favorites and ‘forget’ that these celebrities are also humans who might have a personal life off-screen that is private, Schreiner added.
Taking a Break
Sheeran is hardly the first celebrity to take a break from social media. It was last August that Tom Holland quit social media after announcing to fans that it was “detrimental” to his mental health.
This is also just the latest social media hiatus for the “Perfect” singer, who took a break in 2015 after his X World Tour, and then again in 2019 following his Divide Tour.
This time around it seems like Sheeran is returning prior to a tour leg.
“In Sheeran’s case while he has an engaged base – he’s done this over the past several years towards the end of the year although this year it extended a few extra months,” said Schreiner. “Accordingly, he and his fans have a mutual understanding or ‘contract’ – since they still follow.”
In returning, Sheeran may have also shown authenticity and respect for his fans by being sincere in his Instagram video post, indicating that some “turbulent things” were going on in his life.
“Perhaps Sheeran’s return might be an example of a celebrity walking a fine line by saying ‘I’m back, but I needed a break because of stuff going on in my personal life,'” Schreiner continued. “Sometimes even celebrities need to take a break – but fan loyalty and acceptance might depend on their relationship with their followers.”
A Holiday From Social Media
The fact that Sheeran went on radio silence over the recent holidays is also notable – as some celebrities use the time of goodwill and cheer to connect with fans.
“The holidays are a strong marketing season for music, but Sheeran likely felt he wasn’t missing out by taking a break,” added Steinberg. “It probably detracted from his full marketing potential, but we often need a break over the holidays and can feel better for it. This could allow him to be refreshed for what is likely a busy year ahead.”