When the pandemic abruptly forced students into quarantine almost exactly two years ago, it brought with it the intangible consequences of physical distancing, such as increased feelings of isolation and loneliness. Unable to connect with peers in person, many turned to the internet to find connection. Though COVID-19 necessarily disconnected the McGill community in some ways, the r/McGill subreddit has offered displaced McGillians a place to find support.
Students use the McGill subreddit in a myriad of ways. Though the online forum can appear chaotic––frankly reflecting a university student’s brain amid a busy semester––students flock to the page to find practical solutions, solid advice, and a community support system. For example, throughout the pandemic, many students who faced travel restrictions and were not able to physically learn about the housing market in Montreal relied on r/McGill’s dedicated thread on housing for first-hand experiences and opinions.
The forum helped students find lost Jimmy Choo wallets, facilitated advice on how to make friends after returning to in-person classes, and assisted international students in navigating Canadian taxes.
“I use the McGill Reddit page to simply get an overall sense of what the McGill community is feeling,” Thomas Houlahan, U2 Arts, said. “Being an anonymous forum website, people tend to feel very comfortable sharing anything regarding McGill, from questions about classes and exams to gaining career advice from alumni. Best coffee places, best food, best study spots, comedy clubs, live music near McGill.”
The pandemic has given r/McGill an especially meaningful purpose: Mental health support.
“There are a lot of posts about people feeling extremely down recently, mentions of depression, anxiety, failing classes, losing hope, even suicidal thoughts,” Houlahan said. “I would like to say that of any other social media the McGill people are active on, Reddit is the most open-minded, caring, and appreciative.”
It’s no surprise that students log on to feel less alone. Some have gone to r/McGill to rant about mistakes and seek reassurance that they will be okay. User u/Majestic_Lifeguard81, who wrote a post titled “Took every wrong turn and crashed into myself,” asked community members at the end, “Anyone else ever make mistakes like this?” Fellow r/McGill community members flooded the comment sections with positive reassurances and pieces of advice. In other situations, some students have made posts about overcoming personal struggles and then give peers advice themselves.
Students have also taken to the McGill subreddit to express frustrations with experiences in their classes or on campus as a way to hold their peers accountable. One user, u/WasabiConsistent1485, used the platform to reach out to a stranger they saw crying at McLennan and offered a word of encouragement. There is even good news Monday, which is all about spreading positivity within the community.
“After being subject to online school and going to university with many online classes, I was slightly worried about the community aspect,” Jonny Shoshani, U0 Arts, said. “But, with r/McGill, I was able to receive tips and advice on how to meet people and clubs to join, so I was able to leave the isolation of online living and embrace the McGill community I was entering.”
The McGill subreddit has been around for years, but, especially in recent pandemic times, it has been a prominent social hub for students. r/McGill provides a community-gathering spot for the lighthearted, but also for the serious—having a space to share feelings of isolation and receive support, or just recognition, can be crucial in the alienating environment of university.