Social life at a distance: how to connect with friends during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Anastasia Bekker

Elm Staff Writer 

A person’s social life can be a huge part of their overall mental health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be difficult to maintain that aspect of your life — here are some ideas as to how you can connect, or reconnect, with others at Washington College. 

If you want to meet your friends, the best location is the great outdoors, as open spaces are less conducive to spreading COVID-19.

There are plenty of open areas on campus to meet up with friends and keep a distance of six feet, about two arms’ lengths, between yourself and others, like on our campus green at the corner of Washington Ave and Campus Ave, which is a great spot for outdoor activities. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distance should be practiced alongside wearing a mask and washing your hands frequently. Many locations have hand sanitizer dispensers available, and you should also be using soap and water often.

In the WC Contingency Planning Guide, mandated rules state that all students, staff, and faculty are required to always wear face masks or coverings, abide by on-campus COVID-19 testing protocols, and check in via the Emocha app to self-monitor any possible symptoms to attend public gatherings. 

Taking walks with your friends is an easy way to distance while still being able to talk to one another. Luckily, the College has plenty of paths that allow you to keep a safe distance apart while still being together. 

You can meet up with friends in the dining hall as well, although it’s better to meet outside than in an enclosed area. If you do meet indoors, make sure to follow the regulations laid out by the CPG on their title homepage on the WC website, and stay safe. 

Another preventative measure to practice while around others is not touching your face — avoiding putting your hands near your nose and mouth can keep any germs you’ve picked up while in public from spreading respiratory viruses. 

“COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact — within about 6 feet — for a prolonged period,” the CDC said in an article published on their website on Nov. 17, 2020. “Spread happens when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and droplets from their mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in the mouths or noses of people nearby.” 

Even if you feel fine, stay safe around your friends. Those who are infected but asymptomatic can be dangerous spreaders of the virus. 

If you are symptomatic, the best thing to do is isolate until you receive negative test results. According to the CPG, if you show symptoms of COVID-19, such as high fever or chills, shortness of breath, or a loss of smell or taste, be sure to contact Health Services immediately and await the next steps for care. 

“It’s important to remember that if you have symptoms, then you should stay at home,” Joshua Barocas, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center and assistant professor at Boston University of Medicine, told The Huffington Post on April 7, 2020. “Creating as much space between you and others is essential.”

If you’re looking to meet new people or find new activities, our student community is still full of clubs and organizations that can connect you to students with the same interests. Finding new groups is something that experts suggest for maintaining your social life, and not just for college students, either. WC has clubs for a wide variety of interests. If you’re looking for a club to join, the Campus Groups website has pages for all our organizations and provides an easy way to get in contact with club leaders. 

“Join a virtual book club or a volunteer effort to connect with a stranger over a shared pastime,” The New York Times reporter Katherine Cusumano said on Jan. 23. “It’s still possible,” she said about making friends and joining new social circles. 

Whether you want to meet up with old friends or find new people and experiences, there are ways to stay connected even with COVID-19 regulations. 

Spending time with people you enjoy will only make it easier to get through this strange semester — just make sure it’s done safely, to keep next semester from being just as isolated.

Featured Photo caption: While getting together with friends these days might be harder, it’s not impossible; by establishing a safe, healthy plan, you can still hang out with old and new friends alike. Photo Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema.

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