A digital detox at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has helped ‘dependent’ students to reassess their use of social media.
The university took a break from posting on its social media channels for six days from 16-21 January in order to draw attention to the impact that unrestricted social media use can have on mental health.
Students and staff were encouraged to join the detox and a schedule of #HealthyDMU activities were organised to enable students and staff to channel their energy into focusing on their wellbeing.
Students instead used the time that they usually spend online by taking part in activities such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, sports classes and reading events.
Many of the students who attended #HealthyDMU activities said that they were a more productive way of occupying themselves than being on social media.
Law student Mehul Parekh said that he will now change the way he uses social media as a result of taking part in the detox.
“It was interesting because I didn’t think I’d struggle as much as I did,” he said. “I didn’t realise how dependent I was on it until I did this.
“One lasting change that I’m going to make from now is not checking my social media as soon as I wake up in the morning and at the end of the day before I go to sleep.
“It has definitely improved my mental health, I’ve found that I am going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier. It has made me feel more positive because now I’m not just constantly thinking about what everyone else is up to.”
Global Leadership and Management student Petra Szollosyova, who attended an origami mindfulness session during her time away from social media, said: “The origami class was great, I was thinking only about making the heart and not about anything else, so that was great.
“We used the origami class to make a resolution, so now I don’t have to put it in my phone and I can see it on my desk.”
Chloe Turner, who studies Human Resource Management, added: “It was a different activity to get involved in rather than just looking at your phone. It was a good way of channelling energy positively.”
The initiative came about following conversations between Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard and DMU students, many of whom suggested that social media was having a negative impact on their mental health.
Professor Shellard said that there were both positive and negative aspects to the detox.
He explained: “The good things were that it made me realise that I need to read more, particularly when I’ve got some down time and I’m compulsively reaching for my phone to flick through my Twitter feed. It’s also made realise that human interaction is a really wonderful thing.
“I’ve also realised that I do some bad things with social media. Particularly waking up first thing in the morning and the first thing I do is check my Twitter feed and late at night I scroll through and wonder why my brain is racing when I’m trying to do to sleep.
“It’s been a tremendous thing for me to do and made me think about recalibrating my relationship with my Twitter feed. But I won’t come off Twitter completely because I see it as a wonderful source of news and I’ve really missed that.”
DMU will now work with staff and students to assess the results of the detox over the next few weeks and months.
Posted on Monday 21st January 2019