Staying Safe and Connected Socially During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Making new friends and connecting with old ones during the Coronavirus pandemic: can it be done safely?

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Chanel Richardson

Bronx Science students Braden Chen ’22, Ahona Rhana ’22, Joseph Lowenhaupt ’22, and Chanel Richardson ’22 can be found safely hanging out at Gantry Plaza park after a rigorous week of virtual schooling at Bronx Science.

After months of lockdown due to the novel Coronavirus pandemic, people all over the world want to go out and see their friends. Isolation can be lonely and mentally draining; we crave social interaction and wish to spend time with those whom we care about. 

With the recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the country — the question is whether it is really worth it to go out socially and if we do choose to do so, how can we do it in the safest manner possible?

Now that New York City schools are entirely closed due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in NYC (for the time being, at least), all academic learning is entirely remote, students are not congregating in school buildings, even socially distanced. This leaves incoming ninth grader students and those who are natural introverts little to no opportunities to build in-person friendships and to make memories like students who were previously in school together for years, in the days before the Coronavirus pandemic struck New York City in March 2020.

You get to know someone on a deeper level if you sit next to them every day for months on end in an in-person academic class. Without the familiar environment of in person school as a facilitator, making new friends becomes a more difficult task. One solution to help with building connections during this time of virtual classes is to use social media. Now more than ever, apps like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat make it easier to find others who are in your school and grade with whom you can socialize on virtual platforms.

Ahona Rhana ’22 said that she has been able to make many new friendships during quarantine through her use of social media. “I’ve incorporated Discord, a social media platform, into my life,” Rana said.

Discord, a platform that has been gaining in popularity over the last few years, with many teachers incorporating it into their virtual Zoom classrooms, has given people a platform to talk and to interact with each other over text or on the phone, while sharing minimal personal information in the interests of online safety. The different servers allow for people to use their common interests as a stepping stone for creating friendships online.

Discord has recently gained in popularity given its wide userbase of gamers. Howard Yoo ’22 found that he was able to stay in touch with friends through gaming, even though he characterizes himself as not the most outgoing.

“My friendship circle has definitely gotten a lot smaller during the pandemic, because I’m not a social person by nature, but I mainly used games in order to keep in touch and to make new friends,” Yoo said.

For some students, the larger task at hand is not with making new friends, but in keeping up with their older ones. Long-time friends have taken to Facetime and Houseparty as ways to communicate online instead of meeting in large groups, which is too great of a risk currently with the Coronavirus pandemic. Hanging out with each other in person is extremely risky and might have adverse effects for all of those involved. But, the desire to get back to normal is what has caused large friend groups to reunite and COVID-19 cases to spike.

In New York City alone, there has been a four percent increase in positive cases within the last fourteen days. You would expect most people to wish to stay inside, but the recent spike has not stopped many people from ve venturing outside, regardless. All hope is not lost, though. Ensuring that proper COVID-19 precautions are taken are a huge step in the right direction: mask up, socially distance, wash your hands regularly, and avoid indoor crowds. 

When friends do happen to meet up in person, most follow CDC health guidelines to keep not only themselves and each other safe, but also the strangers and family members around them. Branden Chen ‘22 has taken an hour-and-a-half-long commute from Long Island to Queens in order to see his friends at Gantry Plaza Park, but he keeps his safety and those of his friends as his top priority at all times. “Being able to see them has definitely helped me, but I make sure to keep my mask on, use hand sanitizer, and get tested for COVID-19 regularly, because I would never want to jeopardize someone else,” Chen said.

In this time of the global Coronavirus pandemic, protecting yourself and others must be your top priority. 

Ahona Rhana ’22 said that she has been able to make many new friendships during quarantine through her use of social media. “I’ve incorporated Discord, a social media platform, into my life,” Rana said.

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