(Cat O’Neil / For the Times)
La Cañada High School

Opinion: Productive alternatives to social media during COVID-19 quarantine

During this time of quarantine, it can be hard to find something to do. Sure, Netflix and YouTube are enticing for the first couple of days, but beyond the initial excitement of that sense of freedom, the hours spent staring at the screen and feeling your brain turn to sludge can get a bit old.

Yet, doing absolutely nothing and choosing to immerse ourselves in some fictional or online world seems to be our coping mechanism, a way that we relieve stress and take time for ourselves, as self-destructive and hindering as it can be.

However, there are ways to be productive that don’t involve actual thinking or laborious effort. We can still keep our brain in a somewhat autopilot mode, all the while staying attached to our screens and devices — through the wonders of the online world. So, without further ado, here are some alternatives to simply watching TV or scrolling through social media that can give you the same sense of leisure, just more productive:

1. Online courses

I know what you’re thinking — “Online courses? We already do those,” “that’s just like studying,” “they’re boring,” etc. — but no! When you choose the right topic or course, taking courses online can be a fun, destressing time to explore something you’ve always wanted to.

Through sites and apps like Coursera, EdX, or even Khan Academy, you can browse through lists of courses from universities, including prestigious ones, and participate in lectures and activities for free.

For instance, I’ve recently been taking a course on social psychology from the University of Queensland. As arduous as it sounds, it’s been something I’ve wanted to learn about for a while. Things like reading body language to tell whether someone is lying, discovering the self-deceiving notions we lock ourselves under or determining which prejudices bind my view have all been absolutely fascinating. Though there are a couple activities or assignments here and there, the lectures are low-commitment and almost therapeutic, and I usually “watch” them while playing Solitaire on a split-screen.

Finding a topic you’re passionate about, whether it be music or science, and learning more about it from an esteemed professor, all the while being able to choose how much you are engaged, can be a great way to stay productive and stress-free. Helpful hint, though: choose something that sounds easy.

2. Learning a new language

Yes, we all have a slight trauma from the Spanish orals from last year, and yes, many of us do not ever want to see another “conjugation” or “clause” again. But learning a foreign language is always a great asset to have, even in life, and it can actually help you get a better understanding of the English language.

There are free apps like Duolingo, Babbel, or Memrise that you can download right away, or you can search for an online course that can help you. Many European languages like Norwegian, Swedish, Italian, German, or French use the Latin alphabet which English uses, so they’re fairly easy to pick up.

One great pro tip: foreign language films are a great way to pick up a new language. While you’re learning, you can always “study” the language and culture by watching more movies, which will actually motivate you to observe and analyze what you’re watching. And now, you have an excuse to binge-watch a show and lose track of time and reality with the online world.

3. Bob Ross videos

Finally (and best of all), if you’ve ever wanted to improve your artistic abilities, Bob Ross is always a valid and excellent option. Whether it be the hazy clouds, a palette of the sky, or some trees in the distance, artistic inspiration can strike at any moment, and using this time to improve your skills can help cultivate the craft to express your momentary genius.

Of course, there are other channels or suites you can use online to learn, but why bother when there is the legend Bob Ross? As he puts it, “there are no mistakes, only happy accidents,” and there is nothing in the world more comforting than that. My personal favorite videos of his are the ones where he keeps a squirrel in his shirt pocket or the ones that feature his son, Steven.

Following along to his videos is a great way to destress, tune into Nature, immerse yourself in brushstrokes and colors, and then produce a piece of work that you can be proud of.

Hopefully, these options give you a guide as to what you can do in the upcoming weeks. With COVID-19 still rampant around everywhere with no signs of stopping anytime soon (at least in the U.S.), more long days of quarantine and social distancing seem to lie before us. May we all stay safe and healthy, and get out of this time with a fresh and productive outlook on our lives.