By Annaleise Parsons | Staff Writer
With COVID-19, club meetings, campuswide events and classes have been moved online through services like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. For some incoming freshmen and transfer students, the pandemic has made it more difficult to form meaningful, long-lasting friendships. This raises the question: Can deep friendships even be made in a completely virtual environment?
Teran Yaklin, the associate director of clinical operations at the Baylor Counseling Center, said that friendships were being made virtually way before COVID-19 hit.
“I do think though our society has been making friends and having connections virtually and in an online way before we were in the pandemic … through social media, online dating,” Yaklin said.
She said it’s important to look at how online friendships were being made before and for the Baylor community to “be more creative … and intentional … with how to connect with people” with virtual events and classes.
“I do feel for our incoming first-years because a lot of the connections that were happening during Welcome Week or in-person, it made things a little easier for people to make those natural connections … For individuals who may struggle a little bit, more self-confidence or tend to be more introverted in nature, it might pose more barriers to them,” Yaklin said.
Fort Collins, Colo., sophomore Caitlin Babcock, who transferred to Baylor University this fall, said she loved how friendly the Baylor community is and how it’s made making friends easier in a pandemic.
For students who are struggling with making friends on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, Babcock advised students to go to safe in-person activities.
“Take advantage of whatever in-person activities by talking to people in your classes, people who are in the elevator line … because I think that’s where the connections happen,” Babcock said.
Friends are able to be made in a virtual world only through intentional conversations, effort on both sides of the screen and a desire to make community. However, the definition and meaning of friendship is unique to each person and each person undergoes their own set of obstacles to making friends.
The Counseling Center has invited students struggling with social connections to a virtual connection support group.
“It’s a support group specifically geared for students who are struggling to make connections in the virtual world,” Yaklin said.
The group meets from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays online. Students can sign up by emailing the counseling center at firstname.lastname@example.org.