How to make friends as an online student
When Abhishek and Nimisha entered their virtual campuses to continue their studies, there were no inspiring orientations in vast lecture halls or fancy welcome parties straight from Karan Johar’s filmography. Instead, they were greeted by dozens of strangers staring at the screen where they were supposed to socialize in the comfort of their own homes.
No new faces, just a few whispers and a single teacher.
“I don’t consider myself a particularly social person. However, I like to hug those with whom I have developed a sense of belonging and friendship,” says Nimisha, who is a second year student at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University in New Delhi. “I’m like Olaf’s human counterpart!” She adds.
Socializing is a key facet of the college experience. “The social element of education is not optional but necessary for students to succeed”, writes Joshua Eyler in his book How humans learn. Our physical campuses encourage the kinds of encounters that are essential to the learning process.
What happens, however, when this experience is taken away from students and reproduced in a computerized environment?
Abhishek, who recently enrolled in the FY BAMMC program at the University of Mumbai, describes his subject of study as more practical than other professional courses. His take on socializing, on the other hand, was a bit different. “When it comes to building a vocation, networking and making contacts is key for me. The people you meet on campus are taking a step towards that, which unfortunately hasn’t happened for me so far,” he responds when asked what his experience has been so far since starting virtual classes.
As we all know, the pandemic has upended these conceptions of geographic space, with classes, gatherings and other activities moving online. While offline course may start soon, the best of it is still live and looks to be for the foreseeable future. Since cohesion is central to the campus experience, we must learn to develop a sense of belonging and connection in this online environment.
It is both miserable and magical.
What’s the best way to make friends?
Despite the fact that the connection is formed online, researchers have found that the emotional and psychological benefits of these friendships are equal to those of face-to-face interactions, according to this article from People’s University.
Get rid of the authorities!
There are no external attempts made by universities to help newly enrolled students socialize in a more informal setting. All their interactions involve the participation of the authorities. It’s disheartening because even with that enthusiasm, it’s hard to make friends online. So what can be done in this situation? This elicited an unusual response from Nimisha.
“On these virtual classroom platforms, professors frequently leave the meeting at the end of the lesson rather than ending it for all students. This allows us to catch up informally for a few minutes. Discuss the teacher, the subject, or anything else that comes to mind.
Find your tribe among a crowd of thousands
Participating in various cultural societies or clubs is another approach to making friends and socializing in a more holistic and engaging way. While it adheres to certain procedural standards, it has become essentially informal for virtual students. Students with similar interests are brought together, enhancing the social and educational opportunities offered by the different campuses. According to a list published through Cosmopolitan last year one of the easiest ways to socialize in college as a newbie is to join these clubs, they exist for you!
“Even though people are assigned hierarchical tasks in these companies, this kind of demarcation was ineffective in the virtual campus. Because we were all facing the same online experience, it was an equal playing field for all of us,” Nimisha said. Asked about her experience building relationships through collegiate organizations and societies, she adds: “It may have added more to my social experience in college so far.”
According to a literature review published by Indiana University Student Staff Association Journal, students who participate in clubs and organizations value their college experience more and therefore have significantly higher levels of interdependence and social skills.
However, different institutions in India have had various organizational experiences.
“To be honest, I don’t know much about my campus at this point. It’s only been a week since I arrived. If that happens, I would like to be part of specific theater groups and circles,” Abhishek said. “However, I have yet to be informed of anything like this. Our offline courses are scheduled to start in November, so fingers crossed.
How are the veterans on campus behaving?
It’s clear how difficult it is to acclimatize online and make friends when you’re a new student. Is it easy for individuals who have spent a few years of their schooling offline before having to switch to virtual mode? Kartik, a final year B.Tech student based in Delhi, tells us about his experience.
“I believe making new friends is one thing, but keeping them is another. All kinds of relationships need to be supported,” He underlines. “We stayed in touch for a while after our abrupt separation in March 2020. We experimented with a variety of online community games. It was nice. But it wasn’t long before we realized we didn’t talk to each other as much as we used to. Things started to weigh heavily on us.
So how do you make and keep friends online?
The Internet is your best friend!
“I think more social media apps, such as Discord, have helped me locate other people who share my interests. It’s a server-based system, so anyone from anywhere in the world can participate. , and we can start dialogues on topics that interest us”, Kartik adds.
According to this transmitted data per protocol, the number of Discord users increased by 47% from February to July, and because of the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals have learned that having a place to hang out with their friends is a strong thing.
Along the same lines, Abhishek mentions building relationships online with people around the world. Perhaps the fact that people come from such disparate cultural backgrounds adds intrigue to the discussions.
“I did script readings and other theater-related activities with a group of people I met online through various workshops. It was a fun time for me as I got to interact with foreign learners as well,” he says.
Are we ready yet?
Phew! Interacting with people in the absence of authority, diverting energies to cultural groups and clubs, online social platforms, and engaging with people outside of your immediate vicinity! Is there anything else we need to do to make friends online?
“I believe it starts with acceptance. Accept the truth that our world today is primarily online, epidemic or not. Therefore, whether you are a student or not, overcoming your fear and putting yourself forward is a great place to start,” Nimisha advises people who are new to the field of digital socialization.
“Don’t be wary of the new apps on the horizon! Clubhouse has been a revelation for me recently. In real life, I don’t think I would have met the people or felt the sense of community that I had there. Take risks, even if that’s not who you are,” Kartik remarks.
While adjusting to your virtual college, making friends online can be simple. Just follow the moments you’re in, and you’ll be fine.