Cutting down on social media is as important for your health as stopping smoking and drinking

Scroll Free September wants people to give up social media activity for a month

DAILY MAIL

Getting young people to cut down on social media is as important to public health as campaigns designed to curb smoking and drinking.

That is the warning issued by the Royal Society of Public Heath (RSPC), which is encouraging people to participate in the first ever ‘Scroll Free September’ in a bid to stop the negative mental health impacts caused by these online services.

Previous research has found social media use is linked to heightened feelings of anxiety and depression, poor sleep and body images issues.

The ‘Scroll Free September campaign urges people to give up all social networks for a month, starting from tomorrow.

It hopes those who take part will not use the services as frequently after the month.

It follows similar campaigns like ‘Dry January’, which aims to break people’s habits around alcohol by challenging them to stay sober from the month, and smoking-free ‘Stoptober’, which is held in October each year.

New statistics revealed women are more likely than men to take part in Scroll Free September which involves giving up the ‘Big 5’ social media apps – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube.

In Britain, 12 per cent of people who have heard about the campaign (which equates to around 300,000 people) are expected to participate.

‘When used in the right way, social media can have a lot of real positives for mental health and well-being, including improving social connectivity and providing a source of emotional support,’ Shirley Cramer CBE, RSPH chief executive told Sky News.

‘The issue is actually as important as, and in fact in young people, maybe more important, than some of the other public health issues.’

The Rotal Society for Public Health announced that three times more women than men were expected to participate.

This is because social media makes them feel particularly inadequae and they are also more likely to have been trolled.

RSPH spokesperson Ed Morrow told the Telegraph; ‘Image-heavy social media platforms like Instagram can be a particularly toxic environment for young women who are often left with feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem from the barrage of images of unattainable body image ideals that tend to flood such platforms.

‘This is a problem that has been fuelled by TV and magazines for years, but social media makes it all the more inescapable,’ he said.

HOW CAN YOU SPEND LESS TIME ONLINE?

Being ‘on’ all the time can have a serious effect on our mind and our bodies, which is why a world-famous personal trainer and health author has shared his tips on how to do a digital detox.

Adelaide-born PT, James Duigan, 42, is the former personal trainer of Elle Macpherson and his words are often treated as gospel as he has also worked with the likes of Emilia Clarke, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Lara Stone.

Although many of us communicate with people online and check into social media, Mr Duigan believes we’ve never been lonelier:

‘The primary culprit is social media and our mobile phones. They can bring global communities together and provide a ceaseless source of inspiration at their best,’ he said.

‘But at their worst, they can be a constant nuisance, a constant distraction and stop you living in the present.

‘Even a quick scroll before bed can keep you awake at night or send your self-esteem plummeting as you’re barraged with Insta bums and impossible abs.’

Mr Duigan explained that social media platforms have been purposefully built to be addictive as each notification brings along the ‘happy hormone’ with it.

In a blog post on his website Bodyism, James revealed what his top three tips for a digital detox are.

As with any cold turkey experience, it can be hard to wean yourself off social media – but the trick is to replace the addiction with something else.

‘Use an app called Freedom to block your Instagram, Facebook and Twitter apps for as long as you need – or can bear,’ Mr Duigan suggested.

The app allows you to choose how long you want to block certain apps for – which means you can slowly coax yourself into blocking them for longer.

His second step is simple: just log out.

‘Creating that extra step between you and your ‘feed’ will help you resist the lure of mindless scrolling when your resolve is wearing thin,’ he said.

Mr Duigan’s third and final step is to be in the moment and make sure you’re tuned in on what is going on around you.

‘No pictures. No selfies. No boomerangs. No Snapchats. For one day at least. Don’t lose the moment by trying to capture it,’ he said.

‘Live in the moment and it will live long in the memory.’

Polling for RSPH suggests two thirds of people would be perfectly willing to stop using social media but for many peer pressure and the fear of missing out means they continue.

Previous research has found social media use is linked to heightened feelings of anxiety and depression, poor sleep and body images issues.

Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national director for mental health, said: ‘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.’

Ms Cramer said: ‘Scroll Free September offers us all the opportunity to take back control of our relationship with social media, whether you choose to go cold turkey, or just abstain at social events.

‘The aim is that by the end of the month, we will be able to reflect back on what we missed, what we didn’t, and what we got to enjoy instead.

‘That knowledge could help us build a healthier, more balanced relationship with social media.

‘We know this will be a challenge because of the addictive nature of social media technology, which is why we need to work closely with the Government and the social media industry to create an online environment that is more conducive to positive mental health and wellbeing.’