It’s actually a good thing if your screen time is through the roof RN

Can’t stop staring at your phone during lockdown? Let cyberpsychology researcher Ash King explain why increased screen time could be a good thing for your mental health.

Faced with stricter lockdown laws in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 – with gatherings of more than two people now banned – Australians are about to experience a whole new level of physical distancing.

And while staying at home is the only way we can truly flatten the curve, there’s only so many DIY face masks, baking sprees and wardrobe re-organisations you can do until you start to feel a little b-o-r-e-d. And that’s where screen time comes in.

Stuck inside with nowhere to go and nobody to see, millions of people across the globe – especially those in fully locked-down countries like Italy and the UK – have seen a dramatic uptick in the number of hours they’re spending online. In fact, voice and video calling have more than doubled on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, and Instagram and Facebook Live usage has gone through the roof.

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And although too much screen time got a pretty bad rep B.C. (before COVID-19), during the current climate of national and international quarantine, its positive qualities far outweigh the negative. How? Well, for starters, screen time can help you maintain a social connection with your loved ones.

“Human beings are wired for connection and this means that relationships help us truly thrive,” explains cyberpsychology researcher Ash King from The Indigo Project, who have just discounted their online self-development course to $50 to help people cope with COVID-19 anxiety.

“In light of current realities, it can be tough when we’re unable to maintain relationships in ways that we were once accustomed to, but it’s still critical to maintain connections with our friends and loved ones to stave off isolation and loneliness – both of which can have major unpleasant physical and mental health impacts,” King explains.

Thanks to the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Zoom, WhatsApp, Netflix and Google Hangouts, though, keeping a connection with loved ones while you self-isolate is entirely possible. Not only that, the online world is also the ideal place to learn something new (like how to remove gel nails at home) or use your own skills to teach others.

“We live in an incredible time where we’re more digitally connected than ever, and I think the current crisis has really highlighted this fact,” says King.

“People have gotten incredibly resourceful and creative bringing their unique expertise and gifts to our screens, which means we can all learn, grow and connect over them. This is a wonderful opportunity to try new things and to share in people’s passions and projects in a way we perhaps never did before.”

As well as helping you stay in touch with your friends and family, going online also makes it easier to see that you’re not alone – and that everyone else is going through the same thing as you.

Online, you’re never alone

“One of the things that can heighten our anxiety during these times is the impression we can get (via social media, in particular) that everyone is coping well and getting on with things while we’re alone and feeling utterly lost, scared, frustrated and hopeless,” explains King.

“The truth is, many of us are experiencing challenges and struggles right now, so it’s important to have real conversations and see one another (through screens, of course) in all our authentic and honest messiness. Ask your mates ‘How are you, really?’ and don’t listen just to give advice – listen to hear their experience warmly and attentively. Much of the time, that’s what we’re needing the most.”

Here are all the other positive ways you can use your screen time during lockdown:

Stay informed

It can be easy to fall into a “fake news” tunnel thanks to all the COVID-19 articles making the rounds, but sites like Facebook and Instagram are making it easier to separate fact from fiction. Exploitative ads and conspiracy theories have now been blocked from the services, and people who search information related to COVID-19 will see a pop-up that directs them straight to the World Health Organisation and local health ministries.

As well as keeping you informed, Instagram is also encouraging you (and your friends) to self-isolate with their “Stay Home” sticker and “Co-Watching” feature, which allows you to view Instagram posts with your pals and chat via video.

Join an online workout

With gyms under quarantine and outdoor bootcamps now cancelled, getting your sweat on isn’t so simple in isolation – but thanks to a rise in the number of online workout streams, it’s about to get a whole lot easier.

Check out 10 of the best right here.

Watch a celeb live stream

With live events cancelled for the foreseeable future, celebrities have decided to take matters into their own hands by live streaming themselves singing, performing comedy or running Q&As.

Miley Cyrus has just launched “Bright Minded” on IGTV, where she chats with special guests on how to stay mindful during these tough times, Jimmy Fallon is hosting special editions of his talk show while isolating at home and Charli XCX is producing daily Instagram Lives that include everything from vocal coaching to yoga.

A bunch of celebs are also providing free concerts, like John Legend (with guest appearances from wife Chrissy Teigen) and Hozier, who’ll perform a live set on Facebook on April 3.

More essential coronavirus reading:

Read up on what the government lockdown means for you, understand why Aussie doctors are up arms, be aware of the ‘hidden symptom’ of COVID-19 carriers, prepare yourself for the long-term mental health effects of the pandemic, get your sweat on at home with these free online workouts before reviving your over-washed hands with this DIY balm, and then console yourself with these unexpected joys.