It was late 2013, and Silicon Valley investor Shervin Pishevar had hit a milestone. After spending a large amount of time on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, sharing his thoughts on everything from family to work to motivation to lifehacks, the early investor in Uber, Airbnb and other prominent companies had tweeted 34,777 times.
By breaking that down, Pishevar found that he tweeted just a shade fewer than 14 tweets per day for the previous seven years. But rather than double-down on the social network, and go for another milestone, he checked out. He did not tweet, post on Facebook or post on Instagram for 2014. And he loved it.
For someone with a Twitter account that served as a sort of deeply personal newsfeed, the move was highly unusual. In a Medium post around that time, Shervin Pishevar described the feeling of disconnecting from social media:
“It’s marvelous. I had forgotten what it felt to be disconnected from constant notifications. And in the place of the cacophony was a quietness. What it has resulted in was a quieting of the mind. Immediately, I returned to my love of longer form writing,” Shervin said at the time.
Today, even after plugging back in and almost reaching 38,000 tweets, Pishevar has set the example for a large list of entrepreneurs and celebrities who, for various reasons, decided they wanted to spend less time on their phones or laptops and more time doing…well…other things. While they almost always come back, here are just a few examples of famous people who signed out:
Kelly Marie Tran
Kelly Marie Tran, the actress who played Rose in The Last Jedi, abandoned her Twitter account after the movie came out. Why? Hate. Lots and lots of hate. For months, Tran fought against trolls who routinely made fun of her name, her nationality, and her looks on the social, but eventually decided the best avenue was to walk away.
Before marrying Prince Harry, former Suits star Meghan Markle had a social media and blogging empire worth admiration from fans and foes alike. Her biggest accomplishment was probably her lifestyle blog, called “The Tig”, where she wrote about food, wellness, travelling the world, and more. Naturally, when she found out she was probably going to become the Duchess of Sussex, she set the wheels in motion to shut down the blog. In true Meghan style, the site now features a goodbye note, encouraging Tig fans to take risks, keep on laughing, and of course, continue changing the world. Markle also 86’d her Twitter account and Instagram, although judging by the modern lifestyles enjoyed by the royals, she may just be back on socials very soon.
Ed Sheeran is back on Facebook and other social channels after taking a full year off in 2016. The award-winning musician told the world that the reason he was taking a break was he wanted to spend more time paying attention to the world around him. He did more than just check out from social channels during that time, he actually spent less time answering emails and phone calls.
“I’ve had such an amazing ride over the last five years but I find myself seeing the world through a screen and not my eyes so I’m taking this opportunity of me not having to be anywhere or do anything to travel the world and see everything I missed,” he wrote at the time.
Sheeran eventually signed back into the socials, but not before he took time to smell the roses and explore the world around him. The fans, showering him with more awards in the years to come, thanked him coming back.
Singer Adele is known for quite a few things, but being a shrinking violet isn’t one of them. In fact, the singer stays off Twitter, not because she’s thin-skinned, but because she’s a bit scared of saying the wrong thing and angering fans (or non-fans alike). Another reason is the watching-a-pot-boil process of reaching a specific milestone. As Adele herself said:
“How am I supposed to write a real record if I’m waiting for half a million likes on a photo? That ain’t real.”
SpaceX, Tesla and Playboy
As Mark Zuckerberg was squirming in his chair several months ago, explaining to members of congress how private user data got into the wrong hands via Cambridge Analytica, Facebook users were dropping the social, en masse, like a bad investment. Elon Musk was no exception, but his moment came with a twist: he deleted his company pages.
The super-inventor, who played an essential early role in getting Shervin Pishevar’s startup, Hyperloop One, out of the conceptual stages and into the real world, deleted the Facebook pages for Tesla and SpaceX, his two signature companies. At the time, individual Facebook users of all walks of life were deleting their social profiles. But few companies – let alone large ones like SpaceX and Tesla – had taken the plunge.
With Tesla and SpaceX disappearing from Facebook, and Musk explaining this development by simply tweeting that Facebook “gave him the willies”, Playboy Enterprises also deleted its company accounts. In a press release, the company spoke directly to the move:
”The recent news about Facebook’s alleged mismanagement of users’ data has solidified our decision to suspend our activity on the platform at this time,” the company said in a statement.
While both companies and individuals have different reasons for leaving social media, most, if not all, agree that it’s a positive move. For Shervin, who was used to hitting the send button many times throughout the day, his mostly social media-free 2014 was a revelation.
“I am guilty of connecting too much and sharing too much. I am going to live more quietly. I am going to spend more time face-to-face with my friends and family. I am going to unplug more,” Pishevar said at that time. “And by disconnecting I am going to feel more connected.”
Ready to plan your digital detox? Whatever the reason may be, don’t underestimate the power of disconnecting from the digital.