Real Students Share How They’re Staying Connected With Friends This Fall

Photographed by Francena Ottley.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has prevented many students from returning to a physical campus this fall. That means no more sharing lunch tables, socializing in quads, or helping one another study in the library. While this change may be unfathomable for those of us who were in school before the advent of virtual classrooms, video chats, or even texting and social media, Gen Z is taking the new school year in stride. That's not to say that they don't miss IRL interactions with their school friends, but today's students are finding and embracing new ways of staying connected during these trying times.
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We asked real high school, college, and graduate school students who are currently taking classes virtually from home due to COVID-19 to share how they're keeping up their friendships from afar. Ahead, the devices, apps, and other ways they're staying in touch. There are bound to be some modes of communication you've never heard of — and some you may be surprised to learn youths still use.
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FaceTime

Abby, 22
Houston, TX
Senior in college


How are you staying connected with your friends during this time?
We do lots of spontaneous group FaceTimes, scheduled weekly Zooms, and we have several Discord servers to chat with each other. We post life updates and encouragements in the Discords. We also do "game nights" where one person streams a mystery game they're playing on Discord and all of us watch, play along, and add our input through a voice channel so we can theorize. It feels like we're all really playing together.

How often do you communicate with your friends?
I'll spontaneously FaceTime a friend about every other day, and then a group of us will Zoom every week. We do the game nights once a month. We post in our Discord servers several times a day — they have replaced normal social media posts. Since no one is doing anything in the pandemic and there's nothing glamorous to post on Instagram, the Discord with only close friends is a safe space to post "lol yeah, I'm rewatching Gilmore Girls again."

What is your favorite way to connect with your friends?
My favorite is FaceTiming from my phone because it is the closest thing to being able to talk with them in person. My friend and I would go to Sonic a lot and get milkshakes since it was close to campus. Now, I'm in Houston and she's in Waco, so we'll each drive to our closest Sonics and FaceTime each other in the parking lot, drink our milkshakes, and catch up. Spontaneous FaceTimes have also replaced the casual interactions that would happen in dining halls, common rooms, and libraries.
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Discord

Iris, 18
Mexico City, Mexico
Sophomore in college


How are you staying connected with your friends during this time?
I use two main apps. The first one is Discord, where I video chat with my former high school classmates and friends on Saturday evenings. We just talk about old times and sometimes watch a film together. I use WhatsApp to communicate with my college peers, to get team work done, homework, or exams.

How often do you communicate with your friends?
I use Discord once a week and WhatsApp every day.

What is your favorite way to connect with your friends?
I like voice notes or videos. Although messages are more practical, I prefer listening to my friends' voices and seeing their gestures as they speak or laugh.
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Facebook Messenger

Kimmy, 24
Berkeley, CA
First-year grad student


How are you staying connected with your friends during this time?
FaceTime, texting, FB Messenger, and Instagram.

How often do you communicate with your friends?
Daily.

What is your favorite way to connect with your friends?
FaceTime is my favorite, but with friends that are local, we like to take socially distant walks together.
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Zoom

Collin, 17
Sugar Hill, Georgia
Senior in high school


How are you staying connected with your friends during this time?
I stay connected by having regular Zoom calls with my friends, using Skype or Discord to connect with my friends online, and through Snapchat and Instagram group chats.

How often do you communicate with your friends?
I communicate with them on social media platforms daily, but use other chats like Zoom, Discord, and Skype weekly, around one to two times a week.

What is your favorite way to connect with your friends?
My favorite is probably Zoom calls because I can actually see them and not just hear their voices.
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Instagram & Twitter

Elliot, 23
Tempe, Arizona

Senior in college

How are you staying connected with your friends during this time? 
Twitter, Instagram, text, Snapchat, Discord, and FB Messenger. Recently, we've been playing Scribble.io.

How often do you communicate with your friends?
We speak every day by either sharing a tweet and reacting or seeing each other's posts or stories, but real communication and conversation probably occur once a week. One-on-one and larger group "get-togethers" are more bi-monthly or monthly.

What is your favorite way to connect with your friends?
Discord has been nice as we can log on as we choose without the pressure of initiating a call. I truly love the small moments of seeing a friend on IG or sending shit back and forth on Twitter. Those small interactions mean more to me in a time of pressure and quarantine-induced laziness.
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WhatsApp

Angelie, 21
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Junior in college

How are you staying connected with your friends during this time?
We use social media as well as Instagram DMs or WhatsApp.

How often do you communicate with your friends via these means?
Constantly.

What is your favorite way to connect with your friends?
I really like to have Zoom calls or calls and messaging over WhatsApp.
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Phone Calls

Camille, 15
Atlanta, Georgia
Sophomore in high school


How are you staying connected with your friends during this time?
I often FaceTime, iMessage, and Snapchat my friends on my phone and occasionally DM over Instagram to stay connected. I text/PM quite frequently with my friends and call them when I have the time to have an ongoing conversation.

How often do you communicate with your friends?
Fairly often. I text my friends using all the apps every day, and I FaceTime them about four times a week.

What is your favorite way to connect with your friends?
I really like to call and FaceTime friends when I get the chance to have an ongoing conversation. When I do, it's usually during my lunch hour at school, and we chat, catch up, and joke around. It's very fun.
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Snapchat

Allie, 19
Houston, TX
Sophomore in college


How are you staying connected with your friends during this time?
Zoom, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Facetime

How often do you communicate with your friends via these means?
Every other day!

What is your favorite way to connect with your friends?
I love FaceTiming on the weekends.

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