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Student on phone
May 18, 2021
4 mins read

Nurturing friendships during COVID

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in Avengers: Endgame; it’s like Thanos snapped his fingers and suddenly all my friends disappeared.

But it wasn’t a purple space giant with magical infinity stones that wished my friends away. It was the pandemic restrictions. 

At first, I blamed the loss of my friendships entirely on these restrictions. After all, maintaining friendships feels strange when you can’t meet up with most people in person. But as time passed, I realized I couldn’t let the restrictions be the reason I lost friendships. Just because the local bars have closed, or you can’t hang out in your living room, doesn’t mean that you have to drop the ball on all your friendships.

Trying to reconnect with friends can be challenging as you may be contemplating if they still consider you a friend, especially if you haven’t spoken to each other in a while. But it’s likely that you’re not the only one feeling this way and your friends want to reach out, too; they just haven’t taken the first step. 

This past year has challenged a lot of my friendships—but through re-connecting with friends in new ways, I’ve picked up some tips and tricks that helped me thaw that friendship-building muscle.

So, if you’re looking to break some virtual ice, here are some tips:

1. Start out slow

Instead of lurking on social media, try interacting with friends by liking, commenting, or responding to their stories. Whenever I see a friend post a cute dog or their outfit of the day on their Instagram story, I take some time to respond or leave a nice comment. Validating someone’s presence (even virtually!) can help you connect with them and maybe bring a smile to their face.

Even if the effort is small, it’s a good start! Small reminders that you are still interested in your friend’s lives is a step in the right direction.

Student on their phone

2. DM (direct message—NOT dungeon master)

Like most people these days, your pathway to friendship will involve some form of direct messaging. Whether it’s through Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat, or WhatsApp, connecting with an old friend by messaging them directly is the best way to go! Starting out with a “Hey, how’s it going?” is a great way of letting your friend know that you’re hoping to catch up. 

If you want to take your conversation to the next level, you can use messaging as a gateway to invite them to set up a call with you!

3. Hang out online

You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: “Call your friends!” or “Facetime your buddies!”. If you’re planning a video call with someone for the first time in a while, it can feel a bit daunting. Try planning some activities to do together so you have something to bond over. Here are some of my favourite activities to do online with a friend:

  • Netflix Party
    • Arguably the most popular online activity from this past year. There’s nothing like sitting down and watching a film together—and as a bonus, you can chat about the movie after you’re done!
  • Book club
    • Book sales have rocketed since the pandemic started—reading is all the rage! Choose a book to read with a friend and schedule a time to chat about it.
  • We’re not really strangers
    • This card game has been gaining popularity online and helping people build stronger bonds with each other. If you don’t want to fork over the cash for it, there are lots of free versions on Quizlet!
Students on Zoom

4. Get your group-on

If the thought of chatting with someone one-on-one sounds a bit intimidating, try getting a group of old friends together instead. Having multiple people on a call could take the pressure off of you to fill space and give you the chance to connect with more than one friend. Here’s a list of some of the best online group activities I’ve found over this past year:

  • Gather.town 
    • Gather Town is an online alternative to Zoom where you can go into different rooms and join video calls based on each person’s avatar’s proximity in a room. The platform offers an imitation of a real-life group social dynamic—and even allows you to play games while in different conversations!
  • Skribbl.io
    • Another popular online pandemic activity. Round up a couple of friends and laugh together as you guess and draw funny scenarios!
  • Codenames
    • Codenames is a real-life board game—but you can also play the free version online! Get a few friends together and try to guess the word your team member is secretly communicating to you.

5. Send some snail mail

Last summer, a friend in Hong Kong messaged me asking for my address. A few weeks later, I received a really sweet postcard in the mail with a lovely message and a scenic picture of the Hong Kong skyline. It was a simple gift that warmed my heart and reminded me that small gestures can make a big impact.

Snail mail may be old-fashioned, but something about it really brings people together. So give it a try—all you need is a pen and paper! The writing doesn’t have to be anything fancy; documenting your day and asking your friends how their lives are going can be enough to start a conversation.

Together, but apart

You’re probably not the only one feeling a little behind in your social connections. But feeling connected to friends—old and new—can be an important part of staying well. So whether it’s a quick Instagram comment or a lengthy 4-hour call, take the time to reconnect with friends—it just might brighten your (and their) day!

Thanos may be fictional, but losing touch with friends can be a reality. Hopefully, these tips will help you reach out and get some quality time with your friends!

Header photo credit: Paul Joseph / UBC Brand & Marketing