Go with the digital flow
s the world slowed with the rise of the pandemic, relationships between friends became a challenge. For some, staying at home presents an opportunity to try new recipes, work out at home, or even learn a new language. But, given enough time alone, even those who enjoy it come to realise the company of others is essential to our mental health, like water and air are vital to our survival.
There’s a digital silver lining — with one click, we can hear the voices of old friends, see their faces, and laugh with them no matter the distance.
But what about making new friends and forging new connections in a socially distanced environment?
Like water, making new connections with strangers means going with the flow.
The open sea of various social media apps, such as Clubhouse, Discord, TikTok, and Instagram, means we are no longer ships in the night. For instance, Clubhouse’s drop-in audio feature is like hanging out at a coffee shop or saying hello to a stranger in the line-up. Discord provides users the space to discuss topics that fit their interests with active moderators to keep their conversations safe. TikTok continually improves its socially engaging features, such as duets and stitching, which allow users to interact creatively anytime, anywhere.
Most of us grow up with a particular group of friends, and often we stick to that social circle. Making new friends isn’t easy, but there’s hope! I find that careful utilisation of social media thins the walls of friend-making fear in times like this.
Let me tell you about my new friends Carter, Caroline, and Jess.
Carter and I had met through Twitter. We had initially connected through our viewership of Netflix’s Wu Assassins. In March of 2020, when COVID-19 cases increased rapidly in the United States, I had an idea to open Instagram video chats with acquaintances made on the Internet. So, I posted an open call to invite people to join me on an Instagram video call.
Carter was the first to respond. Our first video chat went on for four hours, and our subsequent conversations would last an hour each time. We talked about our favorite TV shows, our ever-growing reading lists, and we even synchronously streamed shows and movies. We chat on Signal every day, have each other on speed dial. I see him as my big brother at this point, and he makes it a point to treat me like his younger brother.
The second person to respond was Caroline. I call her ‘Care Bear’. As our friendship blossomed, we discovered we have several mutual friends IRL; we just never got the chance to meet in person before. Our shared dialect of Cantonese also helped bring us closer as we fumbled through Cantonese phrases and Chinese characters we had no idea how to say or write. Right now, Care Bear is one of my most important support systems, and I hope I offer her something remotely close.
Jess is a social activist who uses her social media platform to bring together communities of colour and close the gap between minority groups. She is also, most importantly, a dear friend I met during the peak of the pandemic. It was April 2020, and I began my term paper on the tensions between Black and Asian Americans for one of my courses. Jess, at the time, had posted an Instagram video, speaking up for Asian-American communities during the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes. Though we are currently at different ends of the country, we remain connected via Instagram and texting, discussing a wide range of topics, from social activism, justice reconstruction, and anti-racism to our current favorite anime and Asian dramas.
Making new friends and maintaining new relationships in a pandemic is truly a testament to our instinct for self-preservation. Deep down we know that friendships contribute to our well-being, and new ones help us grow.
Through the experience of these challenging times, I’ve learned that kindness, positivity, and sincerity nurture my humanity. Distance is nothing but a measure of space and time, and advancements in technology have all but eliminated them. To establish new friendships you simply need to dive into the digital sea.