Across the UK, thousands of social media users are gearing up for the start of the first ever mass-participation social media-free month, Scroll Free September, which kicks off tomorrow (1 September 2018).
The campaign, organised by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and sponsored by Silentnight, asks people to give up or cut back use of their personal social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, for one month, with the intention that the experience will have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.
Participants can choose to go completely Cold Turkey, or just stop using social media at selected times, such as in the bedroom or at social events, while other phone use such as instant messaging is still allowed.
Based on public polling, RSPH estimates that as many 320,000 people in the UK may be planning on taking part in the inaugural campaign. However, the campaign has also attracted widespread international interest, with participants from 56 countries across five continents already signed up to receive tips and advice through the official campaign website.
Polling carried out on behalf of RSPH on the eve of the campaign also found that:
More than a third (34%) of 25-34 year olds who have heard of the campaign plan to take part.
More than a third (34%) of the public think taking part would have a positive impact on them personally, rising to almost two thirds (63%) of 18-24 year olds.
More than two in five 18-24 year olds (41%) think their parents would benefit from taking part, while more than half (55%) think their siblings would benefit.
More than a third (35%) of people in a relationship, as well as almost half (45%) of 25-34 year olds, think their partner would benefit from taking part.
Among the 10 most followed celebrities on social media, Kim Kardashian-West is the one the highest number of people (28%) would like to see take part in Scroll Free September.
Find out more about the different ways of participating and sign up to take part in the campaign at www.scrollfreeseptember.org.
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “When used in the right way, social media can have a lot of real positives for mental health and wellbeing, including improving social connectivity and providing a source of emotional support. We want to harness and promote those positives, so Scroll Free September certainly isn’t about quitting social media for good.
“Scroll Free September is about taking a break and taking notice of the aspects that may be having a more negative impact on your wellbeing – of which we know there are many – and using that knowledge to establish a healthier, more balanced relationship with social media in the future. Whether it’s scrolling before bed stopping you sleeping, following aspirational and unattainable accounts denting your self-esteem, or the ever-presence of phones getting in the way of your face-to-face interactions with friends and family, Scroll Free September gives us all the opportunity to identify those negative elements and cut them out for good.”
Endorsing the campaign, Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, said: “Having just completed my own ‘digital detox’ for August I wholeheartedly endorse RSPH’s ‘Scroll Free September’ campaign. My scroll free August wasn’t easy but I certainly feel I benefited from taking a break.
“RSPH’s significant research has confirmed that many young people believe their anxiety, body-image concerns and sleeping difficulties are worsened by considerable social media use. We can no longer ignore the impact excessive social media use and addiction is having on the mental health and wellbeing of so many in our communities. I congratulate RSPH for launching this campaign which I know will influence all those who, like me, are determined to improve the health and wellbeing of every child.”
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national director for mental health, said: “Scroll Free 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 long-term plan. We need to see concerted action, with everyone taking responsibility, including social media giants, so the NHS is not left to pick up the pieces of a mental health epidemic in the next generation.”
Supporting the announcement of Scroll Free September last month, Chris Elmore MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing, said: “Scroll Free September is a great opportunity to take a break from social media. Many of us are guilty of becoming consumed by social media and whilst there are many benefits to using the various platforms which are available, it’s important to take some time out. I’d highly encourage everyone to get involved in this initiative – there are several different ways to do so to suit everyone. So please do take a look and see what benefits it brings to your everyday life.”
Victoria Prentis MP, Vice-Chair of the APPG, added: “I am really pleased that I am able to lend my support to Scroll Free September. I am an active user of social media, given my role as a Member of Parliament so I am sure the first few days of the blackout will be a challenge. However, as the mother of teenagers I am only too aware of the negative impact social media can have on the mental health and wellbeing of children these days. Initiatives like Scroll Free September provide a welcome opportunity for users to reflect and to build a healthier, more balanced relationship with social media. I would encourage my constituents to get behind the campaign too!”
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a sleep expert from Scroll Free September sponsors Silentnight, said: “Social networks are definitely causing a heightened feeling of FoMO, particularly with the younger generation who are so used to seeing their social lives played out online.
“It’s quite concerning to see just how much people are using social media at night time. The impact on sleep is particularly concerning. It’s proven that the blue light from phones and tablets wakes up the brain making it difficult to wind down and fall asleep. So punctuating the night with social media checks is a recipe for disaster if you want to sleep well.
“As a sleep deprived nation we’d do well to limit the amount of time we are spending on social media. Scroll Free September is a great chance to initiate this change in lifestyle and reassess our social media use.”