On January 10, 2018, we said ‘rest in peace’ to Meghan Markle’s social presence, as the former Suits star axed her 1.9 million Instagram and 350,000 Twitter followers. To fall in line with royal protocol, she’s been ordered by royal decree to limit her social media presence to @KensingtonRoyal, before she weds Prince Harry in May.
At the risk of almost certain death for treason, I’m going to challenge the wisdom of the palace and ask: why?
It’s been well documented that royals are wary of social media, with Harry calling it a “mental running machine that they [users] can’t get off.”. While he almost certainly has a point, used properly, a set of individual accounts for the royals could potentially be a force for good, and I believe we’re all a little poorer without them. Here’s why:
A royal tweeter would have been a great opportunity for the family to stay relevant - and popular - amongst its loyal subjects.
People have always craved an insight to life behind the closed doors of major institutions. From the dark to the middle ages, I’ll bet peasants were constantly sticking their noses over palace fences to figure out which of Henry VIII’s wives was in town, or get a glimpse of just what made Alfred the Great so flippin’ marvellous.
Naturally, we want to know if our figureheads are as like us as they say they are, and if what they do is really in our best interests. Social can be a useful tool for kings, queens and international figureheads alike to drip-feed us these kind of details in a controlled, yet authentic, way.
The Obama administration managed to strike a good balance of this on social while Barack was in the Oval Office:
“One of the things he wanted to do was to open the White House, to pull the curtains back and show people how government works,” said Jennifer Psaki, Obama’s communications director, in the New York Times.
YouTubed State of the Union addresses, #couplegoal pictures on Instagram, and Vines of Michelle choosing her favourite vegetables (to name but a few examples), showed Obama and his social team successfully understood each platform’s USPs. The result made the 44th POTUS accessible, at a time when “huge swathes” of the country were shunning traditional forms of communications.
With a similar attitude to media consumption in the UK, why wouldn’t an official Markle account - run with similar support - have the same impact?
There’s evidently a desire to see and hear more from inside Buckingham Palace - the royals are like, sooo totally hot right now. The perception of the importance of the family Windsor has gradually grown since the turn of the century while the Queen’s popularity is as unwavering as her desire to keep the throne (only one in five of us want her ever to hand it over).
And that’s without even considering the hip, cool Kings and Queens in waiting. We’re all naming our kids after Kate and Will’s pair George and Charlotte, while Harry, his brother and sister-in-law are all viewed positively by over 70% of British adults, according to YouGov.
And then there’s the repositioning of the crown in popular culture, thanks largely to shows like, er, … the name escapes me right now.
It’s also a loss for Markle herself, as she no longer has an independent platform to communicate things she cares about personally.
If and when I ever pull the guillotine cord on my Facebook account, the world’s only really losing some better-left-forgotten photos of me. Pressing the big deactivate button on MM’s personal accounts on the other hand, means a big loss for brand Markle. Firstly, she ran lifestyle blog The Tig for three years, documenting her travels, as well as her views and personal issues. Secondly, it also hinders her talking online about the causes closest to her heart, such as being ambassador for World Vision, an advocate for UN Women, and a staunch opponent of sexism in advertising.
It doesn’t mean that she’ll no longer continue pursuing these great causes, but the opportunity to engage with others and publicise them might shrink.
Most of all though, we’re the ones that lose out.
Whether you’re a bunting-waving royalist, or you can’t tell Andrew from Edward, think of all the great content we’ve been denied. Following Markle’s journey into the inner sanctum of the monarchy, seeing someone get to grips with one of the most traditional and frankly baffling institutions in the world would have, a) been hilarious - “what the hell is a royal pricking??” and b) refreshingly human.
It means younger generations of Britons are losing access to a potential role model, at a time we perhaps need one most. As we dangle precariously over the Brexit precipice, the UK could become a very inward-looking place. Our idea of what it is to be British is set to be challenged again, and with children and teens switching off traditional media and relying on social for answers, who would we want them to look up to?
Meghan came with a promise of excitement, which has been snatched away from us to be amalgamated into the monotone, uniform royal brand, lacking in online individual characters, unable to say anything of note, or challenge the status quo in a progressive way.
It’s not about Circle-esque rolling live coverage, but a sprinkle of visibility, a pinch of transparency and a smattering of personality would be just lovely.
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