The coronavirus pandemic has altered every aspect of life, leaving no one untouched. Self-isolation, initially being a relaxing break to ensure all of our safety, quickly became a devastating blow to our social lives and mental health. Much of our social growth abruptly ended in March, leaving friend groups to fall apart, best friends to fight, and individuals to do a lot of thinking on their own.
First came the immediate effects of quarantine. RHS student Lindsey says that “It was a lot harder to keep in touch with a bunch of different people, especially those I only talked to during classes. This made it clear to see which of my friends made an effort to reach out and connect with me and we grew closer.” Student Ava Leonarz agrees and says, “There were more social opportunities before, and without those, [many people] didn’t stay friends.”
Even though self-isolation left us feeling alone, student Sofia Salvador makes a good point: “I learned which friends are willing to put in the effort to communicate even when it’s hard.” Overall, the pandemic has forced people to form a close circle, which they are somewhat limited to. Lindsey puts it perfectly when she says “Isolation was almost a test of the strength of my friendships.”
Obviously, everyone’s social situation looks a lot different, whether it’s the size of their friend group or if they are a part of one at all. It was interesting to see how each person’s circumstances were affected. Student Julia Rojkov says, “not belonging to a specific ‘group’ was both a blessing and a curse during this time. While it did help me understand who I had the closest connections with, it was also difficult to maintain these individual friendships.”
She also provides some more insight such as how isolation helped her personally grow. “I also think that 2020 altered the idea of ‘cliques.’ During this time, I was able to build relationships with people that I haven’t previously spoken to. It sort of eliminated some of my social anxieties, not only due to the screen, but I also think that isolation helped me grow to enjoy and improve my own personality, which I think allowed me to become a better friend as well,” Julia states.
Another RHS sophomore explains how she overcame hardships involving initiating conversation without the usual school environment. “I learned that I definitely had to reach out more because it wasn’t like I was going to see them the next day in school.”
Not only did the pandemic limit hanging out with friends, but it also caused some to not make as many friends as usual. Many people mention that they think they would have made a lot more new friends in the beginning of the year if there wasn’t a pandemic.
It is not easy to connect with other students through Zoom and Google Meet. Some teachers will create breakout rooms for the students to help them engage with each other, but this can be awkward for some students and doesn’t put anyone at ease. Although we give thanks to our teachers for trying to bring the regular school environment to our houses, it’s sad to think about how things won’t be the same for an uncertain amount of time.
Chances are, you can relate to a lot of the students that we talked to, and that should be reassuring. No matter how isolated we feel, we have to remember that when this is over, we will hug our friends, play on our sports teams, have long conversations with our teachers—for us, looking forward to these things brings us at least a moment of joy.
As always, stay home, wear a mask, and check on your friends.
Michelle Hashem and Melike Yesil
Graphic: Vivian Yuan