Socially distanced socialization: how students are hanging out in the COVID era

Evely Reyes

Evely Reyes was hoping to spend her fall weekends like normal college students. A freshman political science and history major from Charlotte, Reyes wanted to celebrate her recent 18th birthday the old fashioned way: with a party, cake, and hugs from friends.

“My weekend plans were to be either hanging out with friends or going to the clubs in downtown Charlotte,” she said. Now, Reyes added, “We can only all ‘hang out’ through Zoom.”

In the era of social distancing due to Covid-19 health mandates, Queens students are resorting to different ways to socialize with friends, trying to hold on to fundamental aspects of the college experience.

To combat feelings of isolation and loneliness, many are going online in increasingly creative ways to hang out.

“We’re planning to have movie nights through Zoom and gossip sessions where we create slideshows of what’s happened to us throughout quarantine,” Reyes said. They have gathered on a new computer app called Netflix Party, where they can watch movies together. And they have gathered for game nights during video calls, ranging from drawing games such as Partycharades.tv, to card games like Uno. Some have had group dinners, showing off their culinary skills enhanced during Quarantine.

But for other students, the separations — even with Zoom, Facetime or Skype — have been far from inspiring. In fact, they have been frustrating, troubling and saddening.

“I can’t hug my grandma,” said Nehemiya Shaw, 18, a LEAD club member who said he was planning on being an education major. Since quarantine and the pandemic started, students like Shaw say that social interactions with families and friends have been minimal.

Nehemiya Shaw

“We have to stay six feet away from her,’’ he said of his grandmother, whom he has tried to visit in person. “I can’t bring my friends in my house, and we have to stay outside and on the porch.’’

This isolation has left many feeling lonely for a net negative effect on mental health. “For almost all of spring and summer, I never saw any friends,’’ said Max Hvasta, 20, a psychology major from Charlotte. “A lot of them were very depressed.” But students, being young and creative, tend to persevere, leaning into their human drive to commune.

Max Hvasta

Many students have been resorting to playing video games with friends, streaming movies together through Zoom and hanging out outside while maintaining social distancing rules.

“It has been better with friends ever since school started.” Hvasta said, referring to the isolation he felt this summer when classes were out. “I have gone to a few people’s houses for studying, cooking, or just hanging out.”

By-and-by, Queens’ Royals anticipate leaving their palaces and zooming back to campus in January when they are hopeful that they can hang out with their friends and put the pandemic’s presence in the past.

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Published by students of Queens University of Charlotte, 1900 Selwyn Avenue, Charlotte, N.C. 28274.