Scroll-free September: Seven benefits to giving up social media

  03 September 2018    Read: 2447
Scroll-free September: Seven benefits to giving up social media @The List

Social media gets bad press.

Research has linked use of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to low self-esteem, insomnia and impaired memory, to name but a few.

Meanwhile, others praise social media for giving a platform to marginalised voices and kick-starting a number of important social movements, such as body positivity.

However, in response to claims that usage leads to poor mental wellbeing, Scroll-free September was born: a campaign encouraging people to take a break from their social media accounts for 30 days.

But what does a life free from 'like' buttons and Valencia filters actually offer in terms of health benefits?

As it turns out, even just a few hours off social media could provide a much-needed boost to overall wellbeing, explains Tanya Goodin, Founder of Time To Log Off and author of Stop Staring at Screens.

“All those perfectly airbrushed lives compared to our own very imperfect one is depressing for anyone,” she tells The Independent.

So, if you're yet to be convinced to go filter-free, here are seven unexpected perks of a social media-free life.

1. It could improve your fitness levels

UK adults spend an average of eight hours and 41 minutes on screens, more than the average amount of time they spend sleeping.

Think of all of the activities you could fill those hours with if you gave up social media, which, let's face it, is probably what's taking up a lot of your screen time.

Countless studies have linked exercise to boosting your mental health - which research shows is compromised by using social media - meaning there is no better way to fill the new hashtag-free gaps in your life than with a little physical activity.

Stop scrolling, start strolling.

2. You feel happier and more relaxed

A Danish study from 2015 found that just a week without Facebook led to higher levels of participants' happiness.

Researchers split 1,095 daily users into two groups, asking one to continue to use the social networking site as normal while those in the other group were required to abstain completely.

Those who went cold turkey reported feeling 55 per cent less stressed after just one week, cue a flurry of "ommmms".

If you are a heavy user of social media, giving up could cause some discomfort in the short term as your mind adjusts to the change, explains Dr Sally Austen, consultant clinical psychologist.

“At first, giving up could result in symptoms of anxiety and depression; and feelings of boredom and loneliness,” she tells The Independent.

Indeed, a study carried out by The Guardian in 2016 found that young people who gave up social media overnight initially experienced periods of boredom and anxiety.

However, in the long term, almost every participant reported feeling far more relaxed than when they were spending more time online.

3. Your body confidence will improve

In 2017, a study named Instagram as having the worst effect on young people’s mental health compared to other social media platforms.

The report, carried out by The Royal Society for Public Health and the charity Young Health Movement, found that the photo and video sharing platform was the most detrimental in terms of body image, leading many users to compare the way they looked to others.

It’s the constant stream of so-called “perfect” photographs that pose the most problems on social media, explains Austen.

Scrolling through Instagram on a regular basis could lead us to make harmful comparisons between our real lives and someone else’s curated version of their life, she adds.

“Images of other people who seem to have a ‘better’ life can drag us down,” she said. This can obviously be particularly detrimental when it comes to making judgements on our bodies.

Even the body positivity movement - which has surged on Instagram in recent years and is largely credited for being a source for good on social media - has its problems, leading some activists to promote body neutrality instead.

Melania Trump: Social media can be 'destructive and harmful when used incorrectly'

4. You might sleep better

A survey commissioned by Bank of America of 1,000 US adults found that 71 per cent of Americans sleep snuggled up to their smartphones, with the majority probably using it as an alarm.

However, indulging in a pre-bedtime scrolling session might be preventing you from sleeping soundly.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the blue light emitted from your phone screen can disrupt production of melatonin in the body, which is the hormone which helps you sleep.

Spend less time swiping, enjoy more time snoozing.

5. Your relationships may improve

"Constant images of other people who seem to have a ‘better’ life can drag us down and dilute of the quality of our friendships," Austen explains.

This is because social media users try to connect with too many people at once, leaving them surrounded by people online but short of quality relationships in real life, she adds.

Thus, spending less time on the platforms could encourage you to spend more time cultivating your offline connections.

6. It will help with FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

This seems like an obvious one, but it's no less valid.

If you're not spending your time on Instagram on Twitter, how will you possibly know about all of the #fun your friends are having (and relentlessly documenting)?

You won't, meaning you can actually enjoy living your own life instead of enjoying it by living vicariously through others and suffering from the dreaded FOMO.

7. It may reduce the amount you eat

A US study from earlier this year found that one in three people can't eat a meal without having their smartphone nearby.

This means that many of us are likely to be guilty of scrolling while we eat, making us more likely to snack later on and consume additional calories, research claims.

Even if your phone remains by your side while you tuck into your dinner, you're arguably far less likely to be using it if there aren't any social media apps to play with, as it's not exactly like you're going to start playing with your calculator.



The Independent

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