Charity calls for social media cut for ‘Scroll Free September’

Royal Society for Public Health campaign aims to raise awareness of te risks of overuse of social media, and encourage digital bingers to reflect on health and well-being issues.

James Hayes | 31st Jul 18
Image shows two young people in a bar fixated to their smartphones.The Royal Society of Public Health's Scroll Free September campaign asks people to stop or reduce use of all personal social media accounts on platform for a month.

What’s being billed as the world’s first large-scale social media-free month has been announced by health education charity the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH).

Called Scroll Free September and sponsored by bed and mattress maker Silentnight, the campaign will run from 1st to 30th September and includes a YouTube video. It asks people to stop or reduce use of all personal (i.e., not work-related) social media accounts on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat for the month.

The campaign follows a RSPH survey that suggested that that two thirds (65%) of people polled who use social media would consider participating in the campaign.

The survey also found that around a third of social media users and half of young users (aged 18-34) expect quitting for a month to have a ‘positive effect’ on their sleep (33% and 50%), real-world relationships (33% and 50%), and overall mental health and well-being (31% and 47%).

45% of users and 66% of young users say the break would ‘improve their productivity’. 40% of young users also think that a scroll-free month would improve their ‘body confidence and self-esteem’.

The campaign comes a year after the RSPH’s #StatusOfMind report, which found that although social media has a range of both positive and negative effects on the mental health and well-being of young people, the net effect of the majority of major platforms is negative, with impacts including heightened feelings of anxiety and depression, poor sleep, body images issues, and ‘fear of missing out (FOMO)’.

“Social media has become a part of almost everyone’s life, revolutionising the way we communicate and share information – it has great potential to have positive impacts on mental health and well-being by connecting people in new ways,” said Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive at RSPH. “However, as our #StatusOfMind report showed, for many of us, especially our young people, the overall impact on mental health and well-being may be a detrimental one.”

Cramer added: “Like other public health awareness months, such as Dry January and Stoptober, participation in Scroll Free September will be a challenge, especially for young people raised with technology ever-present in their lives. The aim is that by the end of September, we will be able to reflect back on what we missed, what we didn’t miss, and what we got to enjoy instead of scrolling through our newsfeeds. That knowledge could help us build a healthier, more balanced relationship with social media in the future.”