The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have abandoned social media and will no longer use platforms such as Twitter or Facebook.
Harry and Meghan, who amassed more than 10 million Instagram followers as working royals, are rejecting social media as part of their new “progressive role” in America. A source close to the couple said they had “no plans” to use social media for their new Archewell Foundation and were “very unlikely” to return to platforms in a personal capacity.
The couple are understood to have become disillusioned by the “hate” they encountered on social media. Meghan has spoken about the “almost unsurvivable” experience of online trolling.
News of their decision emerged after Donald Trump was “permanently suspended” from Twitter on Friday “due to the risk of further incitement of violence”. Michelle Obama tweeted on Thursday that Silicon Valley companies should stop enabling the president’s “monstrous behaviour”.
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The decision by the Sussexes, who announced a year ago that they were stepping back from official duties, signals another marked departure from royal life. The Queen, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and other senior royals often use Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to promote their official and charitable work.
Before her marriage to Harry in 2018, Meghan had a prolific social media presence, with 1.9 million followers on Instagram, 350,000 Twitter followers and 800,000 likes on her Facebook page. She also had a lifestyle website and blog, The Tig. The former actress used the sites for her commercial fashion and beauty partnerships, to promote her friends’ businesses, offer food and travel tips and post holiday selfies and pictures from her Toronto home.
Shortly after reports appeared in 2016 that Meghan and Harry were dating, she appeared to tease royal watchers, posting a cryptic image on Instagram of two bananas “spooning” in an embrace, with the caption “Sleep tight xx”.
In April 2019, Harry and Meghan reinvigorated the royal family’s online presence and broke world records when their @sussexroyal Instagram account amassed more than a million followers in under six hours.
Meghan is understood to have had frequent input into the content, which often featured inspirational quotes from the likes of the Dalai Lama and the late American writer and activist Maya Angelou, alongside videos and photographs of the couple’s official engagements.
They stopped posting on the account after the Queen banned them from using “royal” in any of their branding after stepping down from official duties.
Since their move to America, the Sussexes have been increasingly outspoken about the potential pitfalls of social media. Meghan, 39, has spoken about being “the most trolled person in the world”.
On the Teenager Therapy podcast, the duchess said the online abuse she experienced while pregnant with their son, Archie, had left her feeling “isolated” and “othered”.
“I’m told that in 2019 I was the most trolled person in the entire world, male or female,” she said. “Now, eight months of that I wasn’t even visible — I was on maternity leave or with a baby … If people are saying things about you that aren’t true, what that does to your mental and emotional health is so damaging … That’s so big, you can’t even think of what that feels like.”
In early 2019, while the Sussexes still shared Kensington Palace’s social media accounts with the Cambridges, it emerged that Meghan was bombarded with more than 5,000 abusive and racist tweets in two months. The duchess was subjected to threats of violence and even accused of faking her pregnancy.
The abuse directed at Meghan and Kate prompted Buckingham Palace to issue a statement with guidelines for people engaging in their social media feeds, and a warning that inappropriate content could be reported to police.
During a virtual summit for American publication Fortune last year, Meghan said social media users were like “people addicted to drugs”. In an opinion piece for American magazine Fast Company, Harry, 36, who is known to read much of what is written about him online, said: “The digital landscape is unwell.”
Social media, he wrote, had “stoked and created … a crisis of hate, a crisis of health and a crisis of truth”. The couple have backed the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which called last year for a boycott of Facebook advertising.
Critics have said the decision last week by Twitter and Facebook to suspend Trump’s accounts was hugely significant because it was an acknowledgement that they are media companies rather than techology companies.
Instead of using social media, Harry and Meghan are poised to continue promoting their work in online video and television appearances, through selected publications and via their Archewell website, which they launched fully on New Year’s Eve. They are also expected to resume more frequent public appearances when the coronavirus pandemic eases.
The website features images of their mothers — the late Diana, Princess of Wales and Doria Ragland — with the catchphrase “Compassion in Action”, alongside details of their multimillion-pound production and podcast deals with the streaming giants Netflix and Spotify.
Their foundation has also formed a partnership with the Centre for Humane Technology, to back research into developing “safer, more compassionate online communities”. A source close to the Sussexes said this will be long-term “area of focus for their work”.
While the Sussexes may no longer use social media to promote themselves or their work, other high-profile figures are likely to continue doing so. The American talk show host Oprah Winfrey, a friend and neighbour of the couple in California who is making a mental health documentary with Harry, took to Instagram last month to promote Clevr Blends, an organic, vegan brand of “wellness lattes”.
The post to her 19.2 million followers, accompanied with a crown emoji, gushed about the “basket of deliciousness” she received from Meghan with the products. Soon after Oprah’s post, Meghan announced that she had invested in the company.
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