by Lia Weinseiss

In the current times, it can be difficult to uphold friendships in ways that we have become accustomed to. We can’t share a dinner, go for drinks, and/or hang out at each other’s houses. It seems cruel that in these times when our mental health seems to be at its most fragile, we cannot even see a portion of our support system.

So what can you do? You can text, arrange Zoom calls, send letters, and send gifts. You can show your love and support by checking in every once in a while. While it is certainly a different, modernized form of friendship, it is possible. We do, after all, stay in contact with our home friends when we are at school and with our school friends when we are at home.

However, in these times when our mental health is so fragile and we are doing our best to keep our own heads above water, how much do we find ourselves with an obligation to ensure our friends are doing well? Is a weekly text enough or should it be daily? Are we bad friends if we can’t bring ourselves to do those Zoom calls?

man having a video call on his phone
Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.com

(Zoom is a popular method of calling, and people use it when they are distanced)

We are all going through different struggles, some of us more than others. “Family therapist Catherine Lewis says communication can be fraught when friends are experiencing the pandemic differently.” (Noveck, Jocelyn) If some of us are struggling more than others, it can often be difficult to have the will to reach out or even incite feelings of jealousy if some are dealing with isolation better than others. This can make it even more difficult to keep up friendships, especially if you are in the position of the one expected to keep up contact. 

Being alienated from friendships that used to be a part of daily life can create unexpected rifts because “people are now having to pick and choose what works in a friendship, and what’s maybe no longer a good fit.” (Noveck, Jocelyn) Without seeing people in person, we can easily read texts in a negative way or think that a lack of Snapchats means that a friendship is now lackluster or unimportant. A simple lack of communication can lead to rifts and the eventual fading away of a friendship. With extra time, self-reflection can help us realize that people who used to be in our lives may not have a place there anymore.

 To put it bluntly, this time can make or break a friendship; so, what are some tips you can use to stay close with your friends even if you can’t communicate with them?

  1. If you have a problem, address it.

In a time where verbal communication is one of the only tools we have, letting issues brew because it feels like there is more time to solve them is not the answer. Ignoring your friends or pretending things are normal will only amplify the issues – quarantine or not.

2. If you can check in, do it every now and then. If you can’t, let your friends know why.

Communication is key, though you are under no obligation to text your friends every day. That being said, in times when people are often struggling, texting a friend when you can will have an impact on their day. If you are unable to communicate daily, texting your friends and being honest can often avoid issues that are likely to arise by complete silence.

3. Set up Zoom events.

Though setting up Zoom meetings can sometimes feel like a burden, they can also be a beneficial way of bonding. A simple quiz as a reminder of enjoyable past moments can help bring back to life a friendship that feels largely online.

4. Set up a book trading system.

pile of books on green summer lawn in park
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

(sharing books is a great way to stay connected)

Being able to send books to one another not only lets you and your friends know what each other are thinking, but it also gives you more things to read and do. I’m not going to list out all of the benefits of reading, but it can definitely help.

5. Listen to your friends if you can.

If they are having issues, and you can take on the mental capacity to listen, do so. Talking out situations with your friends can often help strengthen a bond that might be fading because you cannot see one another face-to-face.

6. When asking friends if they have an ear to listen, ask if they are able.

Dumping issues on your friends when they are struggling themselves can create an unintended issue in a relationship. Just checking in with them to ensure they are okay can ensure that you create healthy boundaries in your relationship.

 

by Eleanor Kelman

When I first received news that my campus would be shutting down and classes would move to remote instruction due to COVID-19, my initial fear wasn’t directed at how I personally would adapt to the change; rather, I worried how my dad would fare. I had been living at my university in Boston, which quickly became one of the hot zones of the virus; however, once it became apparent that I would need to leave the bubble of my university housing, I only worried about the possibility of catching the virus. Though it does seem a bit shortsighted in hindsight, I truly believed I would be absolutely safe from catching the virus. At the time, the news was reporting that younger and otherwise healthy people would simply catch the equivalence of the common cold and recover without issue; therefore, I shrugged off the prospect of becoming gravely ill in the event I would become infected. However, once I realized I would need to head back home, I began to panic.

Like many others, despite not being in the at-risk group for COVID-19, I have family members who are. I’m living with my family at home, and my dad is immunocompromised. Even simply coming home from school made me nervous. Parties were thrown every night, and since I lived in a popular upperclassmen-only area of campus, these parties occurred directly outside my front door. I was at the crossroads of wanting to enjoy the final days of my college experience and not wanting to put myself, and subsequently my dad, at risk. I even considered trying to remain on campus or staying with my boyfriend’s family to avoid any chance of passing on the virus. Neither option would prove particularly feasible, and on top of that, my parents wanted me to come home so I could maintain a sense of normalcy.

My family is doing its best to act like we have the freedom to move around, but our need to be hypervigilant reigns supreme. My parents go shopping once every two weeks when the supermarkets open in the morning. We wear masks every time we leave the house to go on walks around the neighborhood. I’ve been keeping connected with friends via messages and video calls. At first, I found this to be a suitable substitute for actually living on campus close to my friends at all times, but lately, I’ve been feeling more and more antsy and fidgety. I have felt completely lost within my own thoughts for what seems like hours every day. The one time I got some reprieve when I drove to stay at my boyfriend’s house for a few days, I never left the car until I was at his house and reinstated my entire quarantine routine while there. When I returned home, I quarantined inside my bedroom for a week (with my parents placing food outside my door that I ordered by calling our home phone). My parents will crack the occasional joke about paranoia, but we understand that it’s something we all have to do in order to keep my dad safe.

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[Each of us has our own personal mask in my family. I got the groutfit one.]

It’s been difficult, to say the least. When I see friends posting on social media about going grocery shopping, I feel a pang of jealousy — my parents don’t allow my siblings and me to go to the store with them. I got plenty of messages like “Oh, that’s stupid!” when I documented my in-room quarantine to my Snapchat streaks, but it wasn’t stupid in my household. Sometimes I want to hop into my car and drive to the local hiking trail or shopping center just to get out of my head for a while, but I know that I shouldn’t. Maintaining safe quarantine practices isn’t all that essential for me, but it could be literally lifesaving for my family. I still can’t help those feelings of lamenting having to be so tightly-wound from sneaking in, though, no matter how much I know they are selfish. 

Whenever I get caught up in jealousy and a weird new-age type of FOMO I thought I had left behind at college, I find people in similar situations to mine. One of my best friends from childhood is severely immunocompromised and, for months, found themselves unable to leave the house just to take a walk. Many of my friends live with elderly family members and have been more worried than myself. Some people I know have even caught the virus themselves, know people who have caught it, or have come in contact with someone who caught it. I also know some people who are in the exact same boat I am with an immunocompromised member of the family.

In all honesty, it’s been a tough time for everyone. That being said, hearing how I’m not alone in my fears has made it a lot easier to handle. If I need to, I can call up a friend who understands my frustrations perfectly and just vent for an hour without feeling guilty. My support network has truly strengthened during quarantine, which was something I was not at all expecting when I said my “final” goodbyes to my friends before beginning the long drive from Boston. My friends and family have been there for me in a way I’m eternally grateful for, especially given that this has really challenged how close we are!
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[My beloved Google Calendar even has some standing friendship dates!]

Whereas remote learning was, pretty objectively, absolutely terrible, remote socialization has been lovely. People who I hadn’t seen in a while and had accidentally fallen off my radar (sorry!) due to my hectic pre-COVID day-to-day life have become my close friends again. I’ve been more inspired to reach out and initiate conversations, something I have always struggled with, due to the fact that there are no longer any real ramifications. After all, who is going to be too busy to video call? We’re all stuck here with too much time on our hands! And no one has lamented me being more active on social media; in fact, I’ve started commenting on posts of people I haven’t seen since high school who have found themselves elated to reinvigorate our friendships. Navigating and mastering social media to stay happy definitely had a bit of a learning curve for me at the start, but it’s allowed me to focus my energy on the people I really care about and fully nurture those friendships.

This isn’t to say that everything has been rainbows and sparkly unicorns and I love having the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay home and relax. I’ve been terrified to leave my house, but I am equally afraid of the ramifications that come with staying inside. I miss my friends dearly and wish I could say I am too busy rather than too bored. That being said, the resilience I’ve seen in everyone, including myself in a way I don’t feel uncomfortable bragging about, has been inspiring. Quarantine has had its fair share of negative side effects, but I think it has presented a feeling of “we’re all in this together” that I have never felt before. When I chat with my friends for the umpteenth time about my problems and see them listen intently, it makes everything feel just a little bit better.

by Lia Weinseiss

Are you looking for something to do while you’re baking, cleaning, working out, or laying around? Is learning from Zoom University not doing enough for you? Try a podcast! With this list ranging from news podcasts to celebrity interviews to everything in between, you’re sure to find something great for the next time you need to bake some banana bread. 

 1. Harry Potter at Home: Readings – Harry Potter the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone

If you read Harry Potter as a child, you’re reading it right now, or you have never read it, this podcast is for you. You can feel nostalgic while listening to the first Harry Potter book being read by notable names in the Harry Potter world such as Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series), Noma Dumezweni (Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), and many more.

2. Secret Leaders by Dan Murray-Serter, Rich Martell

Learn about famous, successful people from the UK and US and their careers. This podcast gives listeners an inside look on just what it takes to make a successful entrepreneur. After listening, you’ll be able to take your banana bread hobby and turn it into your next business venture.  My personal favorite episode? Slack: How to Work Remotely and Stay Productive with Cal Henderson. 

3. Ologies with Alie Ward

Learn about different “ologies” from philematology (the science of kissing) to quantum ontology (the science of what is real) from special guests in this podcast. Hear Alie Ward ask scientists questions about topics you never knew you needed to know about. My recent favorite is Nasology (Taxidermy) with Allis Markham.

4. Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby! A Greek & Roman Mythology Podcast By Liv, Greek Mythology Geek

If you read Percy Jackson as a kid, or didn’t and are regretting it now, this podcast will inform you on everything myths—casually. Fuel your inner historian by listening to a contemporary take on Greek and Roman myths.

5. The Espresso Series By Honor Crean and Grace Volante

This is a podcast with everything you need from two students at the University of Edinburgh: original music recommendations, special guests with interesting untold stories to tell, news pieces and more.

6. Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard

Dax Shepard interviews different famous names in pop culture, food, politics and more about their lives, with a personal twist that is innately human.

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(Source: Pexel)

7. Don’t Blame Me! By Meghan Rienks 

Youtuber and influencer Meghan Rienks takes calls and gives people advice. Listen to anything from dating advice to advice on navigating friendship from the perspective of someone who feels like a big sister.

8. My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

If you haven’t heard of this podcast, now is the perfect time. Feel like you’re talking to friends while you hear about true crime stories you may not have heard of from two women who approach each story with a serious yet sarcastic twist.

TRIGGER WARNING: Deals with graphic stories of homicide and violence.

9. I Weigh with Jameela Jamil

Jameela Jamil challenges society’s opinions of weight by speaking to influential people about their value—beyond what the scale says. Listen to interviews with people like Reese Witherspoon and Beanie Feldstein and hear about what they weigh.

10. The Daily by The New York Times

A daily podcast about important news stories of our time. Stay informed about both national and global news with a 20-50-minute clip including information from amazing journalists.

11. Pod Save America by Crooked Media

This podcast comes from President Obama’s former aides and features many journalists who give you an inside scoop of the news, tell you exactly what you need to know, and how to do something about it.

12. Dirty John by LA Times

Hosted by a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist, Dirty John is a true crime podcast from 2017 about John Meehan’s marriage to Debra Newell and the abuse and manipulation which came from their relationship.

TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic depictions of abuse, homicide, and violence.