One year ago, I told my friends, “Bye! Ingat kayo ha!” All of us probably thought that we’d see each other again after a week – but it never happened. What once was a week-long lockdown turned into months. The transition to the digital world has not been kind to everyone in many ways. In terms of online interactions, sometimes these don’t feel as real or impactful as on-site interactions. As a shy and introverted person, I found it awkward to build new connections and maintain my friendships in an online setting. Sure, it’s still fun, but it could never replace the feelings I get when I’m physically with my friends. It can’t replace the warmth that people give off when we’re with them.
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Given the nature of this pandemic, we are forced to stay at home and socially distance ourselves. As much as possible, we minimize the time we spend outside of our house by doing essential things such as grocery shopping. We also can’t meet up with our friends due to the fear of the virus. We’re pretty much isolated. In one study by Cashin (2021), unsurprisingly, 61% of adults in America admittedly felt loneliness amidst the pandemic. Similarly, in another study by Labrague, De Los Santos, and Falguera (2020), Filipino college students also felt both social and emotional loneliness amidst the pandemic.
But not everyone has given in to the despair and loneliness that the pandemic has brought to us. We all learn to adapt and find new ways to connect and bond with each other. Here are a few tips on maintaining friendships amidst the pandemic.
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Proposed Solutions First, be intentional and proactive about spending time with your friends. Recently, Discord has been rising in popularity. It is a virtual hangout place where servers (think of it as group chats!) can be created. Under the servers, several channels can be made. These can be renamed and categorized into certain topics like rules, introductions, gaming, etc. You have the option to either make it into an audio/video conference or chat channel. Through this, it’s possible to set up bonding activities using Discord like studying together, playing together, watching a movie, and listening to music. This makes it easier to bond with friends who have similar interests. There is also the option to customize emojis, and some groups of friends have been making themselves memes or reaction pictures to liven up the chat.
Here’s another tip: if you and your friends are gamers, then this is a good space to play and talk about strategies. After all, it’s really easy to talk with your friends here through voice channels. There are also games that welcome and recognize Discord, so the process of actually talking with your friends is much smoother and easier. People have also been playing multiplayer games to bond with each other. Some examples include Valorant, Call of Duty Mobile, Mobile Legends, Genshin Impact, etc.
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Next, it’s also important to be available for your friends. The quarantine halted a lot of jobs, so there were a few families whose financial situation was threatened. A lot of small businesses and side gigs started to show up, so if your friend has something like this, it would be good to support them by promoting their businesses and consuming their products/services.
Another way to support your friends is being emotionally available to them. During the pandemic, it’s a common anecdote that people are drained from work and school. There are even those who are worried that they or a relative/family member may have contracted COVID-19. Some may even have to deal with the grief following the passing of a dear family member or friend due to various reasons including COVID-19. In such cases, one’s peers can be the emotional support that may help them go through this sad event in their lives.
To sum it up, some ways we can maintain our friendships amidst the pandemic is virtually bonding with them and being a pillar of support in various ways. But of course, setting boundaries and having personal time to properly process emotions is also important! We don’t want to dump trauma on each other. If left alone, this toxicity may build up and become a miasma for the overall well-being of a person. It’s precisely during these times that we must remain patient, kind, and understanding towards one another.