The Social Dynamic Shift: New Modes of Communication

By Percy Mohn

Elm Staff Writer

If you are a social person like me, being separated from your friends during this quarantine is difficult. I miss my clearly haunted dorm room with the broken window, because at least I was on campus surrounded by my friends. We have gone from seeing each other every day to being secluded in our homes with people who drive us crazy.  Even introverts feel this struggle as well.

When you do not see your friends every day, it can be difficult to maintain your friendships. However, keeping up friendships while you are apart from each other is not impossible.

In fact, people are already finding many new and creative ways to keep in touch with each other. The most common and most used form of socializing I have seen is through the use of Zoom. While many classes have now switched over to using Zoom, it can also be a great tool for organizing hang outs with friends.

Zoom offers a form of synchronous communication, meaning that it happens in real time, internet connection permitting. Zoom, as well as other video chatting software, can offer a similar experience to face-to-face communication.

Another platform that people use is Discord. Discord does allow for video communication, but it is most commonly used for its voice and text chats. There are designated channels in each Discord server for various topics.

For some people, like freshman Xander Raimond, Discord can be a great way to chat with friends while playing multiplayer games. Raimond also said that “There are plans to send gay Victorian letters” to their friends in addition to their online communication.

Raimond highlights an interesting and meaningful form of communication useful in these hard times apart from friends. How often have we seen letters being used in Jane Austen’s novels to denote one’s affections for another? If you are separated from your loved ones, a handwritten letter can be an uplifting and touching gift.

Raimond’s use of Discord and video games also highlights the way video games or board games can be used as a form of communication. Other freshmen, like Riley Bruce and Moppet Post use Discord to play tabletop Role Playing Games (RPGs) along the lines of Dungeons and Dragons. Since these games are mostly played using printed character sheets and vocal improvisation, tabletop RPGs are feasible over an entirely auditory format. In fact, they even told me that “this groupchat” was their main method of communication during this lockdown.

Some couples are finding interesting ways to substitute face-to-face communication with each other by using video games if they happen to be separated from each other. As detailed in an article by Tom Phillips from Eurogamer, couples are using Animal Crossing to go on dates in the in-game museum. They are even attending virtual weddings after the real-world events are cancelled due to COVID-19.

There are also uses of Animal Crossing for communication outside of romantic relationships. An article by Patrick Kobek from The Gamer details how some friends hosted a birthday party for nine-year-old, Sophia, whose party was cancelled due to the virus.

Kobek continues to detail how video games in general have always been places where people have held virtual meetings. Animal Crossing is only notable because of how recently it has been released and its popularity. He writes that, “people have been leveraging the power of video games for years to gather large groups of friends for all sorts of events. World of Warcraft is a perfect example of a social hub where players have met for weddings…and even for funerals.”

Synchronous communication does come with its flaws, however. If you do not have a premium membership with Zoom, you can only speak for an hour before the call closes. Some people do not have access to a stable internet connection at home, and they can have issues hearing or seeing each other. It can also be difficult to find a good time to talk, as everyone’s quarantine situation is different.

Joe Pinsker from The Atlantic said that “sharing links or sending short messages” are just as important as “attention heavy ‘synchronous’ conversations.” It lets people know that you care about them, and it is easier to maintain throughout your day.

At the end of the day, finding ways to keep in touch comes with challenges unique to every relationship and situation. Staying social when we cannot be near each other is incredibly difficult. But even the attempt to connect with your friends can be huge for them. It shows that you are trying to stay close, even when proximity is impossible.

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