Inside Demi Lovato’s Agonizing Relationship With Twitter

“Twitter break. It’s for the best actually. Who allows me to have this thing anyways?!!! I just get myself in trouble! Haha. Anyway… BYE!” wrote Demi Lovato.

In 2012.

Few celebrities have had such a fraught relationship with Twitter than Lovato, who over the past decade has alternately used the social media service to create a singularly close bond with her fans, as a platform to express her opinions and, less intentionally, as a launchpad for all sorts of needless drama, her account alone providing a frequent reminder that no innocent tweet goes ignored when you have millions of followers and a very public persona.

Now, it’s 2019 and the blessing has again become a curse.

The “Give Your Heart a Break” singer is taking yet another break from Twitter after what at worst was a careless joke resulted in a pile-on of people firing off retaliatory tweets bringing up her history of drug use and 2018 overdose. She deleted her account last night.

Luckily, Instagram came along in 2010 to provide a space for people to explain why they just can’t deal with Twitter anymore, and Lovato used Instagram Story last night to detail her mounting frustration.

“This break couldn’t last long enough tbh,” she wrote in one slide, followed by the 21 Savage meme she had found funny and screengrabs of the tweets condemning her for seemingly making light of what was happening to 21 Savage when she tweeted yesterday afternoon, “So far 21 savage memes have been my favorite part of the Super Bowl.”

The London-born rapper, whose real name is Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was detained by ICE in Atlanta for allegedly overstaying his visa and may be deported back to the U.K. Twitter soon flooded with memes joking about his Britishness, as well as the notion that the U.S. has something to fear from his British presence in our midst.

“FYI this is the s–t I’m laughing at…not the fact that anyone is getting deported,” Lovato wrote on Instagram Story, sharing a pic of a lace-cuff-clad hand writing with a quill and ink by candlelight, purporting that that’s 21 Savage writing songs.

“And this is what people say in return?” she wrote in sharing a sampling of Twitter invective directed at her.

“Wasn’t laughing at anyone getting deported. I know that’s not a joke,” Lovato continued. “Not that I EVER laughed at that…Sorry if I offended anyone. But it’s no excuse to laugh at someone’s addiction let alone their OD.” In another slide she added, “Lastly, I wasn’t making fun on anyone having to do with deportation or even anything against him. I was laughing at who the f–k knew 21 was British? Literally no one. That’s it. It doesn’t go deeper than that. I’m sorry if I upset people truly.”

Ironically, the Twitter outrage cycle runs like clockwork and, sure enough, what you find now when you search for “21 Savage memes” are people defending Demi and pointing out the hypocrisy of Lovato getting trashed for commenting on what countless other people were doing too—sharing and lol-ing at those memes.

“Demi Lovato is getting backlash for laughing at 21 savage she laughed at a 21 savage meme and everyone is calling her a crackhead..the internet is f–ked up bro what type of logic y’all run on,” wrote plainpotatoess.

“So #DemiLovato make a joke about the 21 Savage memes, & ya’ll threw her to the wolves. But ya’ll been making the same jokes???” added Catherine J.

The responses ranged from more serious summations to new excuses to add an apropos GIF to the mix, but the general next leg of this controversy is that people are marveling over the fact that Lovato got trolled for basically agreeing with many, many people.

At least if anyone knows how this cycle works, it’s Demi Lovato herself.

“Social media started impacting my life when I was about 14 years old,” Lovato told Glamour in 2014, acknowledging the outsized role Twitter and Instagram had played in her own personal journey as a public figure and how it affected her body image. “I would check it obsessively, reading comments and wondering if people noticed that I’d gained or lost weight. I allowed social media to define what I thought of my body. And now I realize that no matter how thin you are, someone will call you fat. No matter how beautiful you are, someone will call you ugly. But you can’t spend your time worrying about that. You’re just not going to please the world.”

Asked how she approached Twitter, she replied, “I like to read fan comments on Twitter about my music or to see cool pictures they’ve posted. And occasionally I’ll come across a negative comment, but I just laugh it off. In the past that would have really affected me.”

And that was when people only had 140 characters to be vile.

It would be understandable if Demi is still checking Twitter today to gauge the aftermath, so perhaps this will turn out to be one of her shorter Twitter breaks if she’s heartened by the response to the response to her one tweet.

Lovato has been quitting Twitter on and off since September 2010, when, as a source told E! News at the time, people’s “mean-spirited messages” first started getting to her—and that was before she had to leave the Jonas Brothers‘ tour after reaching her breaking point at an airport in Peru. She spent two months in treatment and really did take an extended social media holiday, not resurfacing on Twitter until March 2011.

Since then, she’s witnessed every form of interaction, from unsolicited troll comments to positive and negative exchanges with fellow celebrities, to heartwarming displays of affection from fans, such as when #HowDemiHasHelpedMe started trending in the wake of her hospitalization following an overdose last July.

Lovato took the aforementioned breather in January 2012 after she and Wilmer Valderrama broke up—but just as Demi and Wilmer were meant to reunite, albeit temporarily, so were Demi and Twitter.

Her shortest break may have been the less-than-24-hours she spent away from Twitter and Instagram in June 2016, after writing, “Damn I gotta quit sayin s–t. Bye Twitter. And Insta.”

She continued, “I like Snapchat cause I don’t have to see what some of y’all say. Follow me if you want: theddlovato. But why do people actually give a f–k what I say?? Like if you don’t care the gtfo haha.”

The following day: “F–k this.. I’m back bitches,” Lovato heralded her return. “And I’m coming back more honest than ever. I love my Lovatics so f–king much…I love my Lovatics too much to leave them over some lame ass haters.. What was I thinking?!”

There is a pattern here.

Lovato seemingly starts each Twitter day with a fresh outlook on cyber-life. She has had an epiphany or undergone some personal growth, and she optimistically approaches Twitter with the unfortunately yet-to-be-substantiated hope that something about Twitter, too, will have changed.

And it’s changed alright—for the worse. It still has the capability to bring folks together (look at all the people Monday-morning-quarterbacking the flags thrown last night at Demi), but some are simply more brazen and nastier than ever, addicted to rapid-fire responses and provoking a reaction. While an “edit” function seems to be one of the big items topping Twitter users’ wish lists lately, is that because people are haunted by their typos or because anyone actually thinks a piece of vitriol could be made less nasty or more insightful with a thoughtful edit?

In October 2016, Lovato announced a breather from the public eye altogether, tweeting, “So excited for 2017. Taking a break from music and the spotlight.. I am not meant for this business and the media.”

Happy new year, she was then mercilessly mocked in February 2017 when she tweeted the results of a DNA ancestry test and apparently used too many exclamation points in declaring herself “1 percent African!!!!”

She didn’t leave Twitter, but her conclusion was, “Just thought it was cool and totally random. Some of y’all are mean af. Twitter sucks.”

It was Instagram she used last August to thank her supporters less than two weeks after her overdose, writing, “I have always been transparent about my journey with addiction. What I’ve learned is that this illness is not something that disappears or fades with time. It is something I must continue to overcome and have not done yet.” She thanked God and her fans, whose “positive thoughts and prayers have helped me navigate through this difficult time.”

Of course, it was mainly through social media that so many positive thoughts and prayers were conveyed, further cementing the love-hate relationship that Lovato—like so many celebrities—has with any website or app in which strangers are allowed to write back. She could always choose not to look at what any of them are saying, but then she wouldn’t be the same capital-P Presence that those who love her and will defend her to their own Twitter detriment have come to rally around.

“At the end of the day you have to realize that people can’t relate to glamour all the time,” Lovato explained her sometimes very un-glossy approach to social media in 2015 on Canada’s Breakfast Television. “You can give people an insight into how rad your life can be, sometimes, as a pop star, but also to share who you are with them is important so that they can relate as well.”

In 2016, she told Glamour that she continued to post photos of herself online, knowing she was opening herself up to criticism, because she simply didn’t pay attention to the trolls. 

“…I don’t look at the criticism anymore. If somebody calls me fat, even in a vulnerable moment, I laugh to myself and think, I’m doing everything I can, so there’s nothing I can do about it,” Lovato said. “I don’t have a six-pack. Maybe I don’t even want a six-pack. It doesn’t sound very appealing.”

On the flip side of that coin are all the people who write supportive comments about her physique, her drive, her discipline and everything else they admire about the persevering pop star.

Those comments can be so nice, having social media almost seems worth it on some days. And knowing that some people are saying nice things makes it so hard not to look…

While she has had a lighter social media presence since last summer, Lovato continued to use Twitter as more of a microphone while treating Instagram as the visual aide that it was created to be, such as when she encouraged people to vote by posting a photo of herself voting in November.

Judging by the scrolling she was up to on Sunday, she’s also still using Twitter the way millions of other non-famous people are using it—as the “place” you go if you want to see what everyone’s saying about one particular thing in any given moment. And even without her own account, she’s certainly still free to scroll as much as ever—she has just voluntarily removed herself from the conversation.

But judging by her past Twitter practices, it may prove too hard to stay away. After all, there will eventually be something that Demi feels inclined to communicate in that arena, even if her continued hope that would-be haters can handle themselves, and she in turn can handle the haters, seems a little starry-eyed at this point.

A few days before Christmas, Lovato tweeted, referring to the glut of speculation about her personal life and how her ongoing recovery after rehab was going: “I love my fans, and hate tabloids. Don’t believe what you read. People will literally make up stuff to sell a story. Sickening. If I feel like the world needs to know something, I will tell them MYSELF. Otherwise people stop writing about my recovery, because it’s no one’s business but mine. I am sober and grateful to be alive and taking care of ME.

“Someday I’ll tell the world what exactly happened, why it happened and what my life is like today.. but until I’m ready to share that with people please stop prying and making up s–t that you know nothing about. I still need space and time to heal..Any ‘source’ out there that is willing to talk and sell stories to blogs and tabloids about my life isn’t actually a part of my life because most of the s–t I see is soooooo inaccurate. So newsflash: your ‘sources’ are wrong.”

“I would love to set the record straight on all the rumors out there but I literally don’t owe anyone anything so I’m not going to,” she said. “All my fans need to know is I’m working hard on myself, I’m happy and clean and I’m SO grateful for their support. I’m so blessed I get to take this time to be with family, relax, work on my mind, body and soul and come back when I’m ready. I have my fans to thank for that. I’m so grateful, truly. I love you guys so f–king much…thank you.”

None of these tweets are active at the moment because the people with nothing nice to say once again drowned out those who would have been content to let Lovato have the same laugh as thousands of other people on Sunday afternoon.

And after all these years it’s still going to have to be Demi Lovato who rises above the noise—because surely by now she isn’t expecting Twitter to do it.

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