A healthy way to escape the pandemic

There is a threat in making escapism and high-screen time a mutually exclusive and socially acceptable activity

Diana Sturdy

During the coronavirus pandemic, the average viewer’s streaming time increased by four hours, according to Cord Cutter News. The big four streaming services – Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ – all experienced large gains in subscribers during 2020. 

The rise of Tik Tok, where users can both view and create one-minute videos, has only increased the addiction to screens. According to Oberlo, Tik Tok has over 2 billion downloads since its launch – with the average user spending 52 minutes per day on the app.

In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, and the threat to our mental health and social lives that it poses, it is tempting to escape reality through media consumption. There is nothing inherently unhealthy about escapism. However, there is a threat in making escapism and high-screen time a mutually exclusive and socially acceptable activity.

If anything, the pandemic has taught us to value in-person interaction. Yet, people have been hesitant to step away from the comfort of Zoom meetings and binge-watching shows. Increased screen time makes socializing more difficult, anxiety levels increase and people more fearful and distant from reality.

 Luckily, there are healthier ways to escape this unpleasant reality without sitting in front of a screen, mindlessly watching for hours on end. Ironically, I made the decision to step away from my screen after watching the hit Pixar movie, Soul.

The animated film follows a struggling musician, Joe, on his journey to the afterlife. He accidentally ends up in “The Great Before” — where souls are born and gain their personalities before going to Earth to begin their lives. 

Joe meets Soul 22, who has been tirelessly looking for a spark, and the two return to Earth in an attempt to save Joe’s life. During their great adventure, Soul 22 becomes fascinated with the little things in life: pepperoni pizza, family, learning to walk, jazz music and the joys that come with spending time in nature.

Soul 22 finally finds its spark when sitting on a side street in New York City admiring the beauty of falling samaras (helicopter seeds) from a nearby tree. Soul 22 had spoken with numerous great poets, philosophers, scientists, and musicians to find a spark, but only found its real desire to live when enjoying the little joyful moments that life offers when you aren’t looking for them.

Soul reminded me that if I looked away from my screen for just a second, I might find a new source of joy to experience and give life purpose. For me, it’s taking time to breathe in the fresh air, take a long bubble bath, share a meal with my family, go for a hike or hit the gym, sit by the ocean and journal, or play tennis with a friend. 

I’ve learned that there are ways to escape the pandemic without having to escape reality altogether and miss out on new, exciting experiences you could be having by engaging with the world instead of with your screen. So, use this added time to explore new experiences and take a moment to soak in the beauty of the world around you. Who knows, maybe you will find your spark!