RSPH has announced the launch of a new free online e-learning resource, Looking after your self-ie, which follows on from the end of this year’s Scroll Free September campaign. Scroll Free September, saw an estimated 400,000 social media users across the UK sign-up to take a break from platforms throughout the month.

Following the campaign, a survey of 2,019 participants found:

  • 96% believed their relationship with social media improved
  • 99% would recommend taking part to their friends and family
  • Over two thirds believed taking part improved their mental health (70%)
  • Over half said taking part improved their quality of sleep (53%)
  • More than two thirds (69%) said it improved attention to those around them in social situations

The new e-learning resource aims to help all social media users build a meaningful, more balanced relationship with platforms – where use is conscious and mindful, and the user is more in control. The resource is free to access to all and explores a range of different issues including social media’s impact on loneliness, relationships, self-image, self-esteem, sleep, online trolling and bullying.

It provides practical guidance and useful tips to support users to practice self-care on and offline, and RSPH are encouraging all users to share photos of themselves participating in acts of self-care with the hashtag #LookingAfterYourSelfie. Tips from the resource include:

  • Setting aside a specific time for using social media each day and/or implementing daily cut-off times to reduce social media’s impact on sleep.
  • Curating your feed or timeline in a positive way; this means noticing how particular accounts or posts make you feel and unfollowing any that you think might be having a negative impact on your self-esteem and wellbeing.
  • Using your time offline to engage in acts of self-care such as journaling, exercising, taking up a new hobby, meditating.

Access the resource for free on the RSPH website then post your self-care selfie using the hashtag #LookingAfterYourSelfie.

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “the advent of social media has revolutionised the way in which we communicate and connect with other people and the world around us. Findings from our Status of Mind and #NewFilters reports illustrate that social media has the potential to improve our relationships and general wellbeing, but they also demonstrate the harmful impact it can have. We are delighted to launch this free educational resource, which sheds light on the potential harms and benefits of social media use while providing practical guidance for developing a healthier, more meaningful relationship with social media.”

Chris Elmore MP, Chair of the APPG on Social Media, said: “Many of us often spend a lot of time on social media yet we don’t always take a step back and assess how healthy our relationship with it us. After the RSPH’s second successful Scroll Free September campaign, it’s great to see these new e-learning tools being made available to help people reflect on what their social media use means for them.

“Social media platforms have become a real online Wild West and the problems associated with them have gone unchecked for far too long. It’s time that the government – and we as individuals – became more proactive about managing our relationship with this technology.

“It’s inherently possible to capitalise on the benefits social media brings while also acting to prevent things spiralling out of control and these brilliant resources help people do just that.”

Kira Wong O'Connor, Public Policy, Instagram, said: “We want the time people spend on Instagram to be positive and inspiring. We welcome the RSPH’s new e-learning tool and encourage people to manage their time on Instagram using our customisable daily time reminder. We want to give people more control over their experience on Instagram and encourage everyone to establish online habits that are right for them.”

Dr Anke Görzig, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of West London, said: “the resource is a very accessible tool to assist with a healthy use of the internet. A good balance is struck between the risks and opportunities the internet has to offer. I think this is going to be very valuable for people across all ages and different parts of the community. It is more inclusive than most I have seen so far.”

Professor Philippa Diedrichs, Professor of Psychology and Body Image Expert, University of the West of England, said: “A large body of research documents the potentially harmful effects of spending time online and engaging with social media on health and wellbeing. Evidence suggests the more time you spend on social media, the more likely you are to experience stress, anxiety, poor body image and low mood. And yet, new research is emerging to suggest that some aspects of social media can be used as a force for good. This new e-learning tool from the Royal Society for Public Health offers people the opportunity to learn about the potential impacts of online life across topics central to wellbeing, including relationships, self-esteem, body image, sleep, and bullying. It also signposts resources and sources of support which aim to encourage people to get the most of out their time online in a way that is healthful and productive.”