Have you heard of Scroll Free September? It’s a Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) initiative, which is encouraging all social media users to take a break from social media throughout September.
Why scroll free?
Last year the RSPH and the Young Health Movement published a report, #StatusOfMind. The report examines both the positive and negative effects that social media has on young people’s health.
According to the report, YouTube has the most positive effect on young people’s mental health and Instagram and Snapchat are the most harmful to young people’s health and wellbeing. It’s not difficult to understand why.
Social media has become a space in which we form and build relationships, shape self-identity, express ourselves, and learn about the world around us; it is intrinsically linked to mental health.
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive, RSPH
The negative effects of social media
Social media affords many benefits, but our relationship with social media is not always healthy and it is not always used with positive intent. The report highlighted the following negative effects:
- Anxiety and depression
- Body image
- Fear of missing out (FOMO)
These negative effects don’t just impact on young people, but social media definitely contributes to the pressures that adolescents face and can amplify them too.
My experiences of social media
I love the positive benefits of social media, the ability to connect with like-minded people on a global scale is incredible. I also live with fibromyalgia (you can read about that here: Using my kryptonite to help others), which undeniably has a negative impact on my social life. So social media can make me feel connected to close friends who live far away and also enables me to meet others online who live with chronic illness.
On a professional level, I love using social media to build a personal brand, I use it to support informal learning and make valuable professional connections. I also get to work with academics, researchers and professionals and teach them about how to use social media strategically to support their goals and that’s a lot of fun. I enjoy using social media to shine a spotlight on chronic illness and health research too (you can read about that here: Health research, priorities, challenges and how you to get involved).
I am however, very aware of the negative impact that social media has on me at times.
- Addiction: I started feeling addicted to social media a couple of years ago. When you use social media for multiple purposes, as I do: professionally, to keep in contact with friends and family, to learn and to support interests like blogging, that can amount to a lot of screen time, in addition to the time I spend in front of screens at work. I started taking big breaks from social media in 2017 and continue to do that on a regular basis.
- Sleep: I experience problems with sleeping, which in part, will be a result of fibromyalgia. But I also know that at times, it’s probably also a result of too much blue light from screens. I do have nightshift mode set up on my phone and laptop screens and I also have BlueProtect Zeiss glasses, to reduce the amount of time my eyes are exposed to harmful blue light.
- Unwanted attention: Being active online can result in a lot of unwanted attention. I get targeted by people wanting to ‘fix me’, with the promise of miracle cures, which I know, do not exist. And I’m constantly targeted by people using fake profiles across LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Some of those individuals are catfishes, trying their luck with the intention of extorting money. I can usually spot them though, I’ve been teaching my coworkers how to manage and protect a digital identity, for years. It can get incredibly stressful though. I’m stalked online by someone who sometimes uses fake profiles to contact me. Unfortunately blocking those attempts does not resolve the issue and can make things worse. I’ve done my homework.
- Isolation: Living with chronic illness is hard and when I’m feeling too sick or drained of energy to leave the house, posts from friends about the fun they are having, can sometimes leave me feeling isolated. It reminds me that although I am able to work full-time, my illness can leave me feeling absent from society. I like spending time alone, but it’s important to highlight that chronic illness which involves chronic pain and fatigue, does prevent people from participating fully in life.
Cutting down my time on social media during September is definitely good for my wellbeing. I’m not switching off completely though. I have some important events coming up during September and I fully intend to use social media to amplify messages to support those activities.
Scroll Free September is right to highlight growing concerns that social media is contributing to increasing mental health issues in young people, and a major ramp up of services will be needed to deal with the problems as part of the NHS 10 year plan. We need to see concerted action, with everyone taking responsibility, including social media giants, so that the NHS is not left to pick up the pieces of a mental health epidemic in the next generation.
Claire Murdoch, National Director for Mental Health, NHS England
I’ve pledged to switch off from social media at 6pm everyday during September (night owl). I’m also going to stop using social media in the bedroom (sleeping dog), so no checking social media as soon as I wake either.
Will you join me?
Scroll Free September has already started, but you can still get involved, to improve your own wellbeing. It’s also an opportunity to participate in research as we will be invited to share our experiences and we can hold each other accountable too! 😃
Choose your Scroll Free September adventure!
Let me know, if you’re participating, I’d love to know!
Find out more
- #StatusOfMind: Social media and young people’s mental health and wellbeing (RSPH website)
- Top tips for going scroll free this September (RSPH website)
Originally published at medium.com