The ergonomic benefits of Scroll Free September

The Royal Society of Public Health has been running a campaign all month called Scroll Free September, a drive to get people to take a break from all personal social media accounts for 30 days.

This is in response to their #StatusOfMind report that asked: what does social media do to our mental health? The report found that in some people it can lead to anxiety, depression, negative body image, poor sleep, cyber bullying and something they have dubbed FOMO (fear of missing out).

Scroll Free September is a chance for people to reflect on their use of social media: are we really missing out on much? Is it as important as we think? What can we achieve when we're not scrolling through endless photographs of other people's lives, or worrying about how we're coming across to others?

The psychological impact of social media use is concerning - but what hasn't been given much attention, at least in this campaign, is the physiological impact. What is the effect of social media on our physical bodies?

What does social media do to our posture?

The average person will spend five years and four months of their life on social media. That might sound unrealistic, but it's the equivalent of two hours a day, and while this probably isn't taken in one big chunk, all of the quick checks throughout the day can quickly add up.

Most people scroll through social media from their phones, and this is can lead to 'tech neck'. Because phones are handheld, we often hold them lower down and jut our heads forward to see the screen. The further the head hangs, the greater the weight on the spine.

There is also the risk of finger, wrist and shoulder pain from the repetitive hand movements needed to navigate a smartphone. People with smaller hands may struggle to use some of the larger models available.

RHPH's Scroll Free September campaign offers a number of options besides going completely cold turkey, such as banning social media when you're out for dinner or with friends, or leaving it alone after 6 pm to allow yourself to wind down before bed.

Either way, avoiding prolonged use of handheld technology is the best way of staving off the associated painful musculoskeletal disorders. You should always think about your posture, whatever you're doing.

Find out how to sit correctly by exploring our Art of Sitting resource.