Students find ways to socialize while social distancing


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Jane Johnston, Editorial Intern

As the coronavirus spreads throughout the United States, more and more people are practicing social distancing as an attempt to flatten the curve of the virus.

Grand Valley State University senior Lauren Bedford said it’s been a difficult adjustment.

“I think the main thing that has been stressful,” she said, “is just the lack of social connection in person.”

She, along with people across the country, have found other ways to connect. Downloads of video communication apps like Zoom and Houseparty have skyrocketed as Americans have been forced to get creative with the ways they socialize.

Bedford said she’s been using Discord, a communication app frequently used by video game users, almost every day.

“We’re able to keep in touch socially,” Bedford said of her and her friends, “even if it’s not face to face… and then we’re able to use that same application to play Minecraft and stuff like that to take our minds off of it.”

Fellow GVSU student Lucas Champoux said he’s also been using Discord to keep in touch with his friends. As the treasurer of GVSU’s Esports Club, he’s utilized the app to connect with the club’s members.

Like Bedford, Champoux has been using video games to escape. He’s been particularly obsessed with Animal Crossing New Horizons, which was recently released on the Nintendo Switch.

He plays the game with his friends, most of whom he hasn’t seen since GVSU switched to online courses earlier this month. Being able to communicate with his friends this way, he said, has helped alleviate some of the stress that comes along with self-isolation.

“Something about the nostalgia of playing Animal Crossing, and getting to play it with my friends, just brings a lot of comfort and relaxation,” Champoux said.

Tania Parsons, a graduate student in GVSU’s College Student Affairs Leadership (CSAL), has turned to the video app Marco Polo to talk to her family and friends. She said since the videos on the app don’t go away, it’s been a great way to document how they’ve all been coping.

“We’re actually looking forward to, near the end of this three weeks, to see and be able to go back and have that video log of how we’ve been connecting with each other and our feelings,” Parsons said.

Everyone agrees they are just looking forward to the moment they can leave their houses again.

Champoux said more than anything, he just misses “being able to go out and do something,” adding that most of his friends are feeling the same way. He’s said being with his family at their home in Muskegon 24/7 has caused some tension.

“Oh, we butt heads,” Champoux said. “When we’re cooped up with each other for this much time, we just bicker.”

Parsons said working from home has proved difficult too. Because she lives with two other people and three cats, she hasn’t been as productive as she normally is, but she’s trying to give herself grace and finding comfort in the fact that people everywhere are feeling this way.

“It’s funny because since all of this has happened, I almost feel more connected to people online,” Parsons said.

She hopes that after this is all over, we continue to be as kind and caring to each other as we have begun to be now.

“I’m hoping that people will be more open about checking in with people,” Parsons said. “Everyone’s asking, ‘Are you okay?’ and they really care. I’m hoping that that is something that will stay.”