By Janelle Okwodu. Photo: Getty.
As the poster child for a generation of wildly famous Insta girls, Kendall Jenner rose to the top of her profession in no small part due to her widely followed social media accounts on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Fans hang on her updates, and the pictures and videos she posts often become news items, thanks to the 24/7 media cycle and a seemingly insatiable interest in her every move. By using social media as both a creative outlet (a photo of her hair styled into hearts became the most-liked Instagram image ever at the time) and a marketing tool (corporate giants such as Estée Lauder and Calvin Klein count on her to bring a millennial audience), Jenner has helped to make it an integral part of the modern modeling industry. So when her Instagram disappeared on Sunday night, it left the world scratching its head. Within minutes, articles popped up speculating that she’d been hacked or how the deletion relates to Kim Kardashian West’s post-robbery social media standing, and whether or not the move was permanent. Though the questions were myriad, the message was simple: Why would someone with 68 million followers step away?
Fatigue among social media’s elite has become something of a recurring theme, and Jenner certainly isn’t the first celebrity to call it quits. In the age of the overshare, the downfalls of posting as a public figure are plentiful, from unintentional career-defining missteps and overzealous fans to restrictive in-app rules. As these mediums become unavoidable (and increasingly monetized), many have voiced their frustrations by deleting their accounts. Rihanna famously ditched Instagram after it censored images she posted of her revealing cover story for Lui, and when his Beliebers couldn’t handle his relationship with then-girlfriend Sofia Richie, Justin Bieber left the platform in a fit of pique. Zayn Malik departed Twitter after trolls targeted him and his family, and Emma Stone exited the same platform in an effort to maintain a personal life. For Jenner, who has been available to the public in her role as a reality TV star since her early adolescence, it might be the right time for a breather.
Jenner has already expressed her displeasure with the idealized version of reality so often presented on social media, and this is an especially pressing concern for models, who are already held up as ideals of beauty and expected to have flawless personal style, witty updates, and perfectly composed pictures in addition to everything else. Consider the case of Essena O’Neill, an Instagram star who deleted her accounts last year, citing the overwhelming pressure of maintaining the image she’d cultivated online. Leaving to realign her priorities—and work on a forthcoming book, aptly titled How to Be Social Media Famous—was O’Neill’s way of reclaiming her identity (and, critics might point out, of further monetizing her online persona). The same can be said for the actors and musicians who left social media, even when that hiatus was only temporary: Rihanna now uses her account to express her political beliefs. Star Wars star Daisy Ridley’s Instagram page has been vacant since she was hit with a barrage of criticism regarding an anti–gun violence message, but she channeled the negativity into a dialogue on her Facebook page, mixing her selfies with posts about issues that matter to her.
A self-imposed break from social media doesn’t have to be negative. It can be refreshing, a chance to reconnect with things that aren’t based on likes and engagement numbers—and even, cynics may point out, a chance to boost some interest in a flagging account. For models—many of whom are directed to come to castings with follower data in addition to their portfolios—this could signal a back-to-basics moment or at least a hopeful sign that numbers aren’t everything. While it’s unlikely that Jenner will every fully abandon the medium that has propelled her stardom—her Snapchat and Twitter are still up and running—it’s heartening to see her navigating social on her own terms. Whether her break lasts 24 hours or continues indefinitely, it proves that even the most followed people on earth crave a time when they can unplug.
This story originally appeared on Vogue.
More from Vogue: