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"Social media can offer a means of connecting and community," Harry said

By Stephanie Petit
January 25, 2021 02:35 PM
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Reports that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were "quitting" social media came as "news" to the couple.

The Duke of Sussex spoke with Fast Company about the impact of the digital world in an interview published Friday, dismissing rumors that he and Meghan were giving up social media for good.

When asked about his own approach to social media, Prince Harry said, "It's funny you should ask because ironically, we woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago to hear that a Rupert Murdoch newspaper said we were evidently quitting social media. That was 'news' to us, bearing in mind we have no social media to quit, nor have we for the past 10 months."

Although Harry, 36, and Meghan, 39, have been outspoken about the negative effects of social media, the prince argued that it can "offer a means of connecting and community, which are vital to us as human beings."

Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
| Credit: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry

"We need to hear each other's stories and be able to share our own. That's part of the beauty of life," he said. "And don't get me wrong; I'm not suggesting that a reform of the digital space will create a world that's all rainbows and sunshine, because that's not realistic, and that, too, isn't life."

Prince Harry
Prince Harry
| Credit: Karwai Tang/WireImage

Prince Harry also revealed that he and Meghan aren't focused on a return to social media at the moment, although it's a possibility in the future.

"We will revisit social media when it feels right for us — perhaps when we see more meaningful commitments to change or reform — but right now we've thrown much of our energy into learning about this space and how we can help," he said.

Meghan Markle Prince Harry Duke Duchess of Sussex
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
| Credit: COURTNEY AFRICA/AFP via Getty Images

The couple said goodbye to their joint @SussexRoyal Instagram account with a final post on March 30, 2020, one day before they officially stepped down from their roles as senior members of the royal family. 

Meghan and Prince Harry will no longer use Instagram under the @SussexRoyal handle or update their website, SussexRoyal.com. Although they will be inactive, "both the Instagram account and website will remain in existence online for the foreseeable future," a spokesperson for the couple stated.

In the interview, Harry said that the digital world needs "remodeling" from a humanitarian standpoint.

"We have seen time and again what happens when the real-world cost of misinformation is disregarded. There is no way to downplay this," he said, noting that the failed insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month was largely organized online.

"There was a literal attack on democracy in the United States, organized on social media, which is an issue of violent extremism," Harry continued, going on to cite more examples of how misinformation on social media led to humanitarian crises, including genocide in Myanmar and destruction in the Amazon.

Prince Harry
Prince Harry
| Credit: Peter Nicholls-WPA Pool/Getty Images

Harry likened social media to the idea of a "public square" where anyone can share their ideas, noting the importance of guard rails to keep the tech giants in charge accountable.

"I'm not saying we should abandon technology in favor of Speakers' Corner," he told Fast Company. "Rather, it's that we should avoid buying into the idea that social media is the ultimate modern-day public square and that any attempt to ask platforms to be accountable to the landscape they've created is an attack or restriction of speech."

"I think it's a false choice to say you have to pick between free speech or a more compassionate and trustworthy digital world," he said. "They are not mutually exclusive."

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Harry also wrote an essay for Fast Company in August urging companies to use their advertising dollars "to demand change from the very places that give a safe haven and vehicle of propagation to hate and division."