Students share virtual methods of staying connected amid pandemic

With social distancing measures in place, Cal Poly Pomona students are dealing with withdrawal from physical interactions with friends and family. Now, students are finding innovative methods to stay connected from a distance.

Ronny Rafeh, a fourth-year finance, real estate and law student, shared his new method of staying in touch with his co-workers and family.

“This pandemic has made it so difficult to be around my family and continue my projects with my co-workers,” Rafeh said. “Luckily, we’ve downloaded this application called Houseparty where we can be on camera with up to eight people at the same time from our phones and work on our projects as well as seeing all of my family in Lebanon and America at the same time.”

Houseparty is a free app available on the Play Store and the App Store that allows users to play games with one another — such as heads up, trivia, quick draw and chips and guac — adding a fun twist to traditional video calls.

Video games are increasingly becoming a popular way for students to engage with friends online. In fact, video game consumption has risen by 52% during the pandemic, according to NPD, a market research group.

Connor Schamblin, a fourth-year biology student, regularly plays Call of Duty and NBA 2K20 with his friends to stay connected.

“The game has allowed me and my hometown friends to stay connected and competing against each other,” Shamblin said. “I think that the laughter and the ability to talk to your friends without having to leave your home just makes quarantine much more fun.”

Gaming and social media platforms have been some of the most popular ways for students to interact during the pandemic. (Courtesy of Vlada Karpovich)

Social media platforms, like Instagram, are also allowing students to stay in touch with their friends and family while social distancing.

Gianna Iannone, a fourth-year business administration student, explained that she is using social media now more than ever. “It’s been a great influence on helping me stay connected to my friends through the pandemic,” Iannone said. “GroupMe is one of my favorite applications to make group chats with large groups of friends and family and interact with those I can’t meet in person.”

Apps like these allow for people to have unlimited members in its group which also makes it suitable for some organizations on campus that have gone virtual — including clubs, Greek organizations and offices that still have to resume their daily tasks and projects.

Zoom and Discord have also become popular platforms for students to interact in. Zoom, a video conferencing app, has seen the highest number of downloads this year. According to a press release published by the company, Zoom reported seeing more than 300 million participants daily.

Discord, a chatting platform that is popular among the gaming community, has seen a spike in users after expanding its services. The company recently redesigned its website in efforts to be more inclusive, describing the platform as a “place to talk” for school organizations, art communities and friends.

While students most likely will not be returning to in-person social gatherings any time soon, the digital world can make individuals feel connected with just a single tap.

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