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Why are so many celebrities being driven offline?

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Jessica Rapana
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Jameela Jamil is the latest celebrity to take a self-imposed hiatus from social media, but why does she need to?

Whether she’s putting Piers Morgan in his place or allying herself with another famous feminist, Jameela Jamil has always seemed to be able to hold her own online.

However, this week The Good Place actor switched her Twitter account to private, hiding her tweets, new and old, from everyone bar those she approves. The move came following recent accusation that she was lying about a myriad of health conditions. A viral Instagram story accused Jamil of having Munchausen syndrome, a factitious disorder in which a person falsely thinks they are ill, pointing to several purported inconsistencies in her stories about having cancer, car crashes and Ehler-Danlos syndrome.

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Jamil denied the accusations and posted a statement to Instagram, which read: “I’ve been in this business 11 years and am a smart woman. I wouldn’t lie in print or on camera knowing how permanent the internet is. Especially knowing how much our media loves to portray women as liars and hysterics.”

The drama unfolded while Jamil was already on a Twitter hiatus, following another recent controversy after the announcement she had been appointed as a judge for upcoming HBO Max show Legendary sparked online debate over whether the role should have gone to someone in the LGBTQ+ community. Jamil has since returned to the platform but her account remains switched to private.

Jamil is not the first celebrity to declare a self-imposed social media ban. In fact, in recent times, she’s one of many. Singer Billie Eilish recently revealed she was taking a step back from social media because of the hate she had been receiving from trolls, describing the atmosphere online as “worse than it’s ever been”. Eilish, who recorded the newly-released theme song for the upcoming James Bond film, No Time To Die, told BBC Breakfast, “I stopped reading comments fully, because it was ruining my life, once again. It’s weird – the cooler the things you get to do are, the more people hate you. It’s crazy.”     

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This week, Katie Price also declared she was “taking a break” from social media following the tragic death of her friend, former Love Island presenter Caroline Flack. “I’ve decided to take a break from this horrible media world,” Price wrote on Instagram. “I’m absolutely heart broken… I’m having a dramatic change in my life for the better. I don’t want to have to read or see anything in the press about me, my family & friends or my exes. This has all got to stop! I’ll be back when I’m ready.”

While Lizzo announced in January that she had been driven off of Twitter by trolls. The singer said, “Yeah I can’t do this Twitter shit no more… too many trolls… I’ll be back when I feel like it.” 

Further explaining her decision during an Instagram Live, she said, “I just want to say that, I, you know, I just took a DNA test and it turns out I quit Twitter. I quite Twitter. I’m off it. All social media is not created equal.” She added, “I would love to be in Twitter ‘cause I could connect with you people who positively support me… not to mention spreading my own positive messages. But now I’ve gotten to a point where I’m not just dealing with Internet bullies, I’m dealing with seeing a lot negativity on the Internet dealing with everyone.” While her Twitter remains active, her tweets are still being handled by her management.

By now, we are well aware of the detrimental impact social media can have on our mental health, from affecting our self-esteem to contributing to the development of mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression. A 2018 study reported that more than a third of young people claimed they were quitting social media for good, and 41% claimed it made them feel anxious, sad or depressed. On the other hand, studies show that avoiding social media for even a short time can significantly boost in a person’s sense of wellbeing.

Is it really surprising, then, that these celebrities – many of whom have over a million eyes watching their every tweet or post – are struggling to navigate the mental health impacts of social media? Especially if, as Eilish contends, the atmosphere is as toxic as it has ever been? Being famous doesn’t immunise you from the toll of trolling. 

So, while we fully support their decision to take a break from this fickle online terrain, it begs a bigger question: why should they have to?

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Image: Getty (edited)

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Jessica Rapana

Jessica Rapana is a journalist based in London, and enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content. She is especially fond of news, health, entertainment and travel content, and drinks coffee like a Gilmore Girl.

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