Now that school is online, I’ve been thinking more about how we are interacting with each other.
I think what university teaches us most is how you navigate small and large moments, balancing school with life, and friends with family. I found that the difficulties this online year has put on us, especially regarding our social interaction, can mimic the difficulties we face in the beginning of our first-year (and for some of you this is occurring simultaneously!). We start off hesitantly, and even unsure on how to start. Especially with anxiety, there is difficulty in reaching out and in general, attempting in the first place. The way we go about our interactions are completely different virtually, which could perhaps provide a benefit for those of us who have our ups and downs.
The online aspect of interactions lets us enjoy friendships and when they got too much it lets us close the app, allowing us to control how much we handle and the time we devote to ourselves. Even when social interactions seem minimal, the efforts it takes can be quite consuming and the ability to take mental breaks seem to be normalized now that people are experiencing these periods of either an overload of commitments or too little interaction at all. It allows the idea that people will hop in and out and not always be there, so you can be afforded the mental breaks you need.
Quarantine is emphasizing that a lot of emotions I experienced socially during first year are mimicked online. In first year, I said yes to everything that happened: I said yes to touring the residence building on the first night (and then getting trapped in a stairwell shortly after), to lunch with friends from class, to studying at libraries, and to Tim’s runs. The people I least expected to connect with were the same people I ended up sitting next to in lectures, spending nights writing essays with, and falling asleep during screenings with (shhh this only happened once okay).
This is all to say what I have found most successful in finding community and connection is saying yes to everything that came my way because I never could predict what they’d become. Of course, this is a prompt to say yes only to push yourself out of reservations regarding social events, never to tell you not to take a break or to over-commit! Now, I find myself acclimating to saying yes online: to calling while studying with my friends, baking with them, watching terrible movies (why the need to cast Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito as twins I will never know but I applaud the producers who let it happen), and having game nights.
The friends I have gotten close to over quarantine were the friends I hadn’t thought I could relate to, and this strange modern ritual of following each other on social media, and starting to talk based off a post one of us has or a show we both like creates a bond that continues to grow. I think during these unlikely times finding people is becoming more interesting… We start with the friendship ritual of rants, and when we hit a topic that is similar to each other’s experiences, we bond. These unlikely friendships, formed in incredibly strange ways provides us with the people who can support us, grow closer to, and have fun with. How are you connecting or finding community online? What’s been working best for you and how are you balancing your mental health with school? Share your strategies in the comments, I’d love to hear them! Feel free to also share your favourite hobbies or shows for some new suggestions and to find others interested in similar things!