Why is Ed Sheeran on Twitter anyhow?

Image: Mark Sagliocco/FilmMagic

Two Grammy awards. An album that went double platinum. An unparalleled number of weeks at the number one spot on the charts, not to mention the biggest opening week for a solo male artist in the U.K.

Why does Ed Sheeran’s Twitter account matter again?

The insanely successful English singer-songwriter deleted his Twitter on Monday, presumably following mixed reaction to his cameo in Sunday night’s Game of Thrones season premiere. Whether or not this was the catalyst for his departure from the app (despite his insistence that he wouldn’t quit), he reinstated his account in under 24 hours.

But if we’re being honest, Sheeran’s account really doesn’t matter. He’s a giant star; he didn’t need to be on the social media platform in the first place.

Twitter silence

The majority of 2016 found Sheeran off of social media entirely. His Twitter and Instagram feeds went radio silent on Dec. 13, 2015. The musician explained in a note that he chose to take a break from his feeds to travel and experience the world without a filter. And so far, in 2017, he only used his account to promote his new album Divide.

Yet despite the lack of a year’s worth of posts, his industry-changing album has resulted in impressive numbers, with over 320,000 units sold in the first week.

For established celebrities, an active Twitter presence frankly doesn’t matter or seem to translate into anything other than unfiltered promotional platform. It’s a perfect tool for album cycles—say what you need to say, how you need to say it, put a few different links in bios and voila, you’ve got a direct channel to your fanbase without the trappings of the media.

Those who fall in this camp of celebrity users have either lucked out and cultivated a following before the rise of social media, or are like Sheeran and have elevated beyond the shelling of Fit Tea-sponsored posts because they have something more to offer, like music, tours and experiences. Sheeran’s disappearance from the app (accidental or not) is an omen of what to expect from other A-listers.

And, in fact, a celebrity of his status staying even slightly active on Twitter only acts as a target for merciless trolls to bat him around without a second thought.

Celebs beyond Twitter

Take Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Kanye West, artists who have limited presence on the app but still manage to shatter records with each release. While Sheeran doesn’t necessarily pop to mind when these names are uttered (usually this does), he is undoubtedly in the the upper echelons of the industry alongside them.

They, alongside Sheeran, have millions of dollars attached to their name and billions of eyes watching them offline, too. Sure, using Twitter to announce a single or album might be effective—but so is a surprise performance on a late night show, a headlining festival slot, or a few exclusive interviews. For artists without a record label machine behind them, Twitter is a necessary tool. But Beyoncé doesn’t use it personally at all, choosing to instead share bits of her private life on platforms like Instagram—something Adele, Swift and Sheeran do well, too.

Sheeran, and those who are at the stadium-filling status as him, benefits personally by disengaging with the unwanted messages that clog their Twitter mentions and maybe that minimal-Beyoncé-style sharing is the the happy medium necessary that keeps artists, fans, and PR folks happy.

Twitter is also infamous for it’s inability to protect users from trolls. Sure, the majority of racist and sexist spewing accounts are worse than the ones that came for Sheeran after his controversial GoT appearance but regardless, unleashed users on the platform do have an ugly track record of driving celebrities (Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, and Leslie Jones to name a few) away. Whether or not Sheeran initially left because of this is unknown, but honestly, is a direct, unfiltered connection to fans worth millions of harassing comments? Probably not—and it seems that Sheeran might be just the latest user to realize that.

People love Sheeran for his music, not his tweets. He doesn’t need to be on Twitter because his music is better than his GoT cameos—and to be honest, if he were to delete the app again, it’s safe to say we won’t miss him because of just that.

Truthfully, Twitter benefits far more from Sheeran’s activity on the site than he does from it. For every positive interaction he receives, there are many more negative ones. And his openness to participate, when he doesn’t need to, on a platform that will gladly dole out abuse is not a very wise position.

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