Ask Ainsley: How do I maintain connections with peers virtually?

Dear Ainsley,

With most of my days spent indoors without the usual hustle and bustle of campus life, I am finding it difficult to stay in touch with acquaintances. On-campus classes and parties were what brought us together, so it’s been harder to maintain relationships in their absence. What can I do to stay connected with my peers? 

Sincerely,

Missing In-person Acquaintances (MIA)

Dear MIA,

The absence of social gatherings will inevitably mean less interaction with your acquaintances. Naturally, this makes it challenging to maintain these relationships. First of all, it’s important to recognize that these are unprecedented times, and that you are bound to have fewer opportunities to socialize. However, social media and other online platforms are  powerful tools that can help you maintain some of these connections.

To begin, try to play an active role in planning online get-togethers. Try inviting a group of friends from past in-person classes for a Zoom party. There are many online multiplayer games that you can play to spice up these gatherings, like skribbl.io, an online multiplayer Pictionary-style game. Zoom is  a great way to catch up with one another, and bring some laughs to an otherwise isolated day. I recommend inviting a large group so that there is plenty to talk about and catch up on, as this can help to avoid potentially awkward one-on-one chats.

You can also try keeping in touch with your peers via stories on Instagram or Snapchat. Sharing your thoughts and opinions by responding to social media posts can be a great conversation starter––you may be surprised at how many people will appreciate your comments. This will keep your name fresh in their minds and help to maintain your relationship even while campus activities are on hold. Reaching out to people who post thought-provoking content on their stories often leads to interesting conversations that can educate you on new topics while developing your relationships with acquaintances. 

Joining online social groups on Facebook, Discord, or other social media can help students both connect with people they already know and even meet new people with shared interests. Nowadays, it is easy to see where people are ‘hanging out’ online through posts that they share publicly. You can use this information to find groups that interest both you and your peers. While they may not be the same as in-person alternatives, chatting online can help alleviate the pressure to make a good first impression and help to break the ice. 

Lastly, you can use social media platforms to reach out to classmates directly. Many of them may also be feeling isolated, and sending a Zoom direct message or reaching out to start a group chat or Facebook group can add to the online learning experience while helping you develop study groups and lasting friendships. These platforms can be key to maintaining your old relationships as well as forming new ones. Be optimistic, and take advantage of the internet’s highly accessible communication tools. 

It is important to realize that the transition to remote learning means that many aspects of your social life will also be taken to the web. While the social distancing measures currently in place are temporary, there are still many ways to keep your friends and yourself engaged online in the meantime. You can even use the new reality to your advantage to connect with people in ways you may not have in the past.  Remember, your peers are likely just as interested in maintaining a relationship with you as you are with them. Don’t hesitate to make the first move. 

Best of luck,

Ainsley

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