OPINION: Students should utilize digital communities amid pandemic isolation

OPINION: Students should utilize digital communities amid pandemic isolation

Due to the current circumstances in 2020, students are finding themselves at home to shelter in place rather than out and about on campus. The chance to form and join communities online has never been more primed to benefit internet users. Students should take this chance to utilize the internet for socialization during the pandemic.

Online communities are now more accessible than they have ever been. Advancing technology allows access to social media websites like Reddit to be accessed anywhere that has an internet connection and a device.

Reddit users can find subreddits for nearly anything, no matter the breadth or obscurity or a topic. With a few keystrokes, users can find large subreddits like r/funny with 29.7 million members, or smaller subreddits like r/grilledcheese with 172,000 members.

By utilizing subreddits, users can join communities and learn new hobbies, connect with other individuals who know more about a topic or learn about a new field of information.

This connection can be invaluable as a way to relieve stress and help structure one’s time in quarantine, according to Psychology Today. These benefits are particularly valuable now, when students are forced to find a new way to structure their everyday lives in quarantine.

Forming communities online also allows for the spread of information beyond an individual’s place of residence. Services like My Language Exchange allow users to connect with people around the globe for the purposes of forming multilingual friendships.

Such programs also allow users to learn a new language while connecting to and making friends with others globally. Individuals who learn a second language are more resistant to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as having an improved memory, according to Deep English. By using these services, students have the opportunity to create connections and improve their overall health.

The ability to connect to users globally also allows for the spread of news and culture without face to face interaction, which can benefit users on both ends. Cultural diversity has been linked to innovation and success on a global scale, according to a study by Forbes.

Online communication also allows people to stay connected with friends and colleagues from the comfort of home. Because of the shelter in place order for people in Georgia to stay in their homes through the end of April, methods to maintain relationships digitally are increasingly important.

The ability to maintain such friendships digitally has never been easier than in 2020. Chat programs like Discord and social media like Twitter allow students to retain the benefits of maintaining friendships, regardless of the time of day or location.

“As long as my friends are up we can chat with each other at any time,” sophomore computer game design and development major Joseph Hancock said. “It’s much less stressful on me since I don’t have to see them in person to keep up with them.”

Maintaining one’s friendships through the available digital avenues is beneficial because having close friends has been found to boost happiness, reduce stress and improve one’s sense of self-worth, according to the Mayo Clinic. With maintaining these relationships becoming more important than ever, it is imperative students take advantage of the communities available online.

The factors resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and self-quarantine lead to the ever-accessible online platforms for maintaining friendships online. Joining online communities can allow people to spend their time indoors learning a new skill or language, and simply keeping up with close friends and classmates can help with stress in an increasingly stressful time.

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