tudents across the country are experiencing a significant social slump at the hands of the COVID-19 pandemic. It comes as no surprise that the pandemic has affected several aspects of our lives, but the extent to which it has done so may have some lasting effects. Consider the following factors:
1. Adolescent students who do not receive proper closure at the end of high school.
2. Adolescent students who must then begin the next chapter of their lives disconnected and socially isolated from peers, and in many cases, remotely from their homes.
3. The psychological and developmental effects of social isolation on adolescents.
There’s a reason the words “impressionable” and “youth” are often used together. At their age, adolescents are most susceptible to outside influences. They start to adopt the behaviors and mannerisms they are surrounded by, begin to increasingly observe the way people interact, and most importantly: they rely heavily on their own social interactions as they progress through school and prepare for the future. Depriving youth of social interactions for an extended period of time is bound to have some adverse effects.
Young people are at a great risk of losing valuable time to make long-lasting friendships. One of the benefits of attending college is that it widens your social circles and allows you to meet new people from all over the world. But students—especially first years—are finding that doing so in the midst of a pandemic is not only difficult, but nearly impossible. Restrictions put in place to control and reduce the spread of COVID-19 have left students with minimal opportunities to get to know their own classmates and have put many students in a situation where they must choose between their health and their social life. While the obvious answer may be to prioritize one’s health, some college freshmen are finding that their desperation for social interaction sometimes outweighs the importance of safety. Virtual replacements for in-person interactions such as virtual game nights, Zoom sessions or group FaceTime calls, and Netflix parties have all been utilized, but after almost a year, there’s very little virtual variety left out there. Students are starting to get sick and tired of the same old games of Codenames, skribbl.io, and Cards Against Humanity. Not only are students growing weary of Zoom fatigue, but they also report that these virtual activities aren’t even effective substitutes. Nothing can replace the feeling of interacting with someone in person, face to face. In fact, it’s entirely likely that this lack of social interactions is causing some difficulties and downtrends in academic performance. When an overwhelming majority of classes are in a virtual format, and spending time with friends also occurs virtually, there is no separation between the two. A laptop quickly becomes the social connector. College students have reported that not being able to see their friends in person has not only affected their social wellness but has caused them to feel isolated and unmotivated. While we may not have realized how crucial social interactions were to our pre-pandemic lives, it’s become extensively evident that they are a critical pillar of our overall wellness. So, does social life in a pandemic really exist? Survey says: not really.