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On 13 December 2015, Sheeran announced a self-imposed hiatus from social media, commenting that he found himself "seeing the world through a screen and not my eyes." He further ensured that some of this time would be spent creating his third album, which he considered "the best thing I have made thus far."
Exactly one year after this announcement, on 13 December 2016, Sheeran's various social media platforms posted pictures of a blank blue square to state his imminent return to music. On 1 January 2017, Sheeran officially ended his hiatus by announcing that "new music" would be released on 6 January. On 12 January 2017, Sheeran revealed the track list and the release date for the album.