The UK media are busily discussing a new campaign by the Royal Society for Public Health – Scroll Free September. It’s a lively idea to encourage us all to think about our relationship with social media and its possible impact on mental health.
The RSPH’s introduction is quick to stress potential benefits of social media in supporting connectivity and wellbeing. But at the same time its 2017 #StatusofMind report examined both the positive and negative effects of social media on people’s health. YouTube came out as particularly positive, but use of Instagram and Snapchat was experienced to some people’s detriment.
The Scroll Free September campaign is not an alarmist suggestion that we all go cold turkey, but rather suggests:
“By taking notice of and learning which elements of social media make you feel good and which make you feel bad, participating in Scroll Free September could help you build a healthier, more balanced relationship with social media in the future – a relationship where your use is conscious and mindful, and where you are the one in control.”
There are 5 levels of participation ranging between “cold turkey” and “sleeping dog”. I’m contemplating blending “social butterfly” and “night owl” .
Almost inevitably, the media is tending to report the campaign in a relatively extreme and therefore somewhat unfair way: see for example the Independent’s “Why a health charity wants you to go cold turkey on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.”
I know that my colleagues’ project on Academic Writing found that email was experienced as a considerable burden by some participantsbut I’m not sure if the team (Karin Tusting [PI], David Barton, Ibrar Bhatt, Mary Hamilton and Sharon McCulloch) found much evidence of the impact of social media in 2016-17 on academics in HEIs.
I learnt about the campaign from Niamh McDade, the Senior Policy and Communications Executive at RSPH, who is a relative of mine. I think any campaign that gets us thinking about writing and reading in our lives in a balanced way is a good thing, but this seems particularly imaginative. I will decide which level to sign up to by the end of the day!