Chrissy Teigen deactivated her ultra-popular Twitter account last week, ending Americans’ swirling love-hate relationship with her stream of consciousness. Teigen said the platform “no longer serves me as positively as it serves me negatively, and I think that’s the right time to call something.”
“Someone can’t read that they disappointed you in some way every single day, all day without physically absorbing that energy,” she added. “I can feel it in my bones.”
Staff editor Madeline Osburn and Culture Editor Emily Jashinsky break down Teigen’s departure below.
Emily Jashinsky: Madeline, are you in mourning?
Madeline Osburn: Good riddance. I cannot stress enough how much better off the internet will be without her “clap backs.” Speaking of which, you left out the most telling quote from her on this: “I’ve always been portrayed as the strong clap back girl but I’m just not.”
The fact that she’s even adopting the pathetic social media language of “clap backs” tells us that she is way too online. Truthfully, I’m happy for her, that she’s able to be honest enough with herself to step back from such a large following and platform. I’m sure it wasn’t easy.
Everyone, not just celebrities, should step back from social media as much as possible, especially if you are feeling its effects “in your bones.” Good for her that she is able to recognize that and put up boundaries accordingly.
EJ: I was thinking something similar, which is that Chrissy Teigen’s arc is tragically reflective of the broader population. With all the energy of a young Jack Dorsey, she reveled in the confessional culture of Twitter, sharing personal thoughts and anecdotes that allowed her to connect with others but also opened her up to criticism and some ugly impulses.
The reward system for celebrities is more powerful, of course. There was basically a Chrissy Teigen industrial complex run by journalists who would mindlessly report on her political and personal tweets with inane #GirlBoss framing. In the same way normal people use social media to curate their image and get the dopamine boosts from likes, retweets, and follows, Teigen reaped those rewards on a higher level. But it’s fundamentally a similar system, she just earned millions off it. It was great for her career.
But it makes life miserable. Opting into the digital panopticon is slowly crushing all of our dreams. Right?
MO: Correct. We have mountains of evidence that social media is crushing us mentally and even physically. And I think most users don’t need much convincing to admit that. But to focus on Teigen and why she is an exceptionally bad example, recall what she accomplished with her Twitter account. She effectively ended the career of popular chef and food writer Alison Roman, stalked and harrassed model Courtney Stodden when she was 16 years old, and took it upon herself to lead a boycott of Equinox gyms after she found out the CEO was a Trump supporter.
We can all use social media in hurtful or negative ways, it’s just that Chrissy Teigen was able to do that while also making millions off of it. I guess she finally realized she’s achieved a level of fame at which she can drop the platform that makes her miserable, but without losing any of the money and power.
EJ: It’s this dichotomy. Social media does spark conversation. It does give people an outlet. It does help careers. But it also destroys conversation, gives people an outlet for their worst impulses, and destroys careers.
On top of all that, it creates an ecosystem of stupid careers, like “clap-back celebrities” and the media robots who aggregate their dumb clap backs. So while Chrissy Teigen says she’s leaving, won’t her unfortunate legacy live on?
MO: Yes, because there are plenty of celebrities (even if they’re just teen TikTok or YouTube stars) to fill that void of Chrissy-sized drama. But more than that, the rabid followers are still sitting in the Twitter peanut gallery waiting to watch someone’s, really anyone’s, worst impulses play out in real time.