University switches off social media to help student well-being


A university is switching off all its social media channels for a few days as an example to encourage its students to try their own “digital detox”.

De Montfort University, in Leicester, wants to highlight how “unrestrained social media use” can be harmful to the mental health of young people.

The university operates nine different social media channels, including Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

Vice-chancellor Prof Dominic Shellard says he will stop using Twitter.

“In conversations I’ve had with students, I’ve been really struck by the degree to which their over-engagement on social media is having a negative impact on their mental health,” said Prof Shellard.

“They don’t want to come off social media completely but they do want to recalibrate their relationship with social media.”

Mental health worries

On Wednesday, 16 January, the university will stop using its range of social media accounts and put them on hold until Monday.

That day is sometimes called Blue Monday, with claims that it is the most depressing day of the year, and the intention is to warn that an overuse of social media can be bad for students’ well-being.

Social media DMUImage copyrightDMU/REDPIX.CO.UK
Image captionStudents at De Montfort are being encouraged to take a digital detox

But it is also after the deadline for university applications – with universities now using social media as a way of recruiting students.

During the days when social media is switched off, there will be a range of physical activities being promoted, such as free gym classes.

The library will try to encourage students to go in to look at printed books, rather than reading online.

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Researchers at the university have examined the use of digital technology.

“The key benefit of doing a digital detox is that it will highlight to people just how much time they spend on social media and perhaps provoke them to ask why,” said Lee Hadlington, associate professor in cyber-psychology.

“This will give people the chance to explore what sort of things that they are missing out on when they are engaged in social media and will encourage them to engage with people face to face.”

But it will mean breaking some habits.

“I’ve realised more and more that out of instinct I reach for my phone and go straight to social media when I turn on my computer,” said media student, Alice Arnold.