COVID-19 puts perspective on friendships: personal and virtual

By utilizing technology during this time, new perspectives on life can be heard and valuable memories can be created.

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A few weeks ago, my friends and I frolicked freely on the grassy Francis Quadrangle. The weather let us preview spring: a gleaming sun shone vibrantly upon our faces, the sky bright blue and beautiful and a light breeze felt airy and refreshing. Someone brought a charcuterie board and we laid down a blanket to sit on. Another friend carried a watercolor paint set and that afternoon we drew flower petals in vivid red.

When I reflect on that memory at MU before the campus closed down, it feels like a distant dream. I remember everything my friends said. I remember what they wore, how they laughed and how off in the distance a lonesome street performer played electropop music and softly sang the alto clef. Besides the pop song, there is nothing about that day that I can experience now.

Throughout this period where social distancing is a necessary precaution, one can still prioritize the importance of socializing. However, communicating is different now.

On a rainy night, I sat in the kitchen with my laptop open on the table. I had a dish of assorted fruit, a glass of wine and a pre-planned “virtual” hang out with my friends. There I sat chatting away with my friends on Zoom and my screen displayed four faces. Outside the rainstorm pounded at my home’s brick siding and their voices sounded just like I remembered them. It was almost like normal again … well sort of.

After a few minutes of interrupting each other (it was hard to contain our excitement about being reunited again), we progressed into a decent conversation, which included the usual back-and-forth banter. A perfectly manicured quip from my comic friend, or an endearing remark from my sweet friend. I am an irresponsible friend (especially regarding decision-making), but I’m also the quick-witted friend, insightful and the undeniably accepting friend.

We passed a few laughs for a handful of hours and before we said our goodbyes, we made a promise to do this every week. I wanted very much to be a good listener for my friends and provide them with emotional support during quarantine that they deserve.

Conceptually, technology is nothing new in my social sphere. I use Snapchat every day in place of basic text messages. I use Instagram here and there. I’ve used Facetime, Houseparty and Tinder before. It doesn’t go without saying this moment in time is different for us all. Never have I utilized these phone apps in place of all social contact.

In the past, I’ve struggled to express myself through technology. Possibly, it's that I let messages from friends accumulate to the extent where my need to respond to them is an unnerving responsibility. Possibly, I’ve struggled to socialize through technology because a part of it will always appear unnatural.

Our freedom to socialize in person is gone, and momentarily the use of technology to interact is mandatory. The use of Zoom or Facebook or Snapchat is vital to continue communication with friends because it's important to hear their perspectives on life during the Coronavirus.

I suggested to my friends that we come up with a set day and time to virtually hang out, so we all know when everyone is free for chit-chat, deep talks and banter.

Although, I admit I like it best when my friends call or I call them spontaneously. It’s good to know someone cares and is thinking about you. Navigating specific friendships can be tricky during this time, but it never hurts to reach out to someone to let them know you are thinking of them.

Just the other day, a friend called. Her voice sounded hushed and intangible. I asked why she was so silent, and she responded that she was wary of waking up her cat.

Isn’t it nice that we’ve deliberately introspected into our home life? I have a cat too. Actually I have three. I live with six other family members at this time and there are moments where one person can’t find a spot on the couch to watch a movie, which manifests into a huge ordeal in our family and typically results in a full-blown rock-paper-scissors war. I must admit it’s nice to have a household involving laughter and positivity and cinnamon rolls for breakfast.

For some, quarantine isn’t as simple. There are people who don’t have Wifi access, phones or computers to access Facetime or Zoom. There are people who don’t have the liberties to call whoever they want. For those of us who do have the privilege to use technology, it is important to use it to reach out, listen and help others.

My friend, the one who was conscientious about her cat’s napping habits, told me she can’t go home to be with her family because she would be putting her elderly grandmother at risk of getting COVID-19.

The sacrifices some make during this time of uncertainty are outstanding. Perhaps, I have taken for granted how lucky I am to be surrounded by family, and even more so, how lucky I am to be able to communicate with college pals and hometown friends at the touch of a button on my phone screen.

I consoled my cat-loving friend and told her to call me whenever she needed anything, or when she wanted to talk. She told me she is thankful her family is healthy and that’s all that matters.

Recently, my sisters and I have explored our creative talents and took up painting. Visually, my paintings aren’t so appealing. However, as I eyed my sister’s canvas three days ago, I saw she had painted a grassy area of blooming flowers.

I noticed how she carefully tilted her brush to paint the flower petals a vivid red. As much as I disliked being away from my friends and regular college, I realized then I was still making memories.

Edited by George Frey | gfrey@themaneater.com

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