By Olivia Barker Dell
As of now, our world is recovering from the COVID-19 Pandemic. COVID-19 was first reported from Wuhan, China to the World Health Organization on December 31st, 2019. It has been over 500 days since the first report of COVID-19 cases. During the pandemic, everything has shut down, people have stopped traveling to work or to school, attending broadway shows or sporting events, or even meeting face to face. That last one is key, because it hampered our ability to communicate, which in itself is key in our world. Without face-to-face communication, our social lives are diminished, and we resorted to online communication. Apps such as iMessage, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Zoom, Google Meet, Discord, Snapchat, Messenger, and WeChat are just a few ways people have had to communicate in the pandemic. As a teenager starting her first year of high school, communication was a huge issue for a few reasons. First, friendships and school and at the workplace are key, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was much harder to make connections with my classmates.
I’ve heard from a few friends that have struggled to make friends and communicate. They’ve told me that there are positives and negatives when it comes to communication and social apps. Apps such as Discord, Snapchat, Instagram, iMessage, and Zoom. Freshman Jonah Kau told me that he “uses apps like Discord or just simple messaging on my phone to talk to my friends and stay connected with them. Without these apps I feel like I wouldn’t be as open with my friends and these apps have really helped with talking during the pandemic. When I think about it, we kind of take it for granted and I think that it is a helpful tool.” Tenzin Chemi, another Beacon freshman, said something very similar.“I think they have helped me in making friends during this freshman year being that I’m doing fully remote. Although I’m unable to go to school in person to make friends, I can make friends online with the people from my school,” Chemi said. Even though everyone has different experiences, the most common and important part in all of their experiences was the ability to connect with new and older friends during the pandemic. They also shared with me how they have made connections with their fellow classmates, especially via Instagram and Discord, the two most popular communication apps used by the Beacon freshmen.
Both Kau and fellow freshman Arcadia Santos Valentine mentioned many positives, but also told me how social media and communication can negatively impact someone’s health. Arcadia said that “one of the major problems is seeing other people living their exciting and socialized lives during the pandemic can make you feel isolated, which can impact your mental health.” This really stuck with me, as this feeling can be created from many different situations, whether it’s being left out of a group chat or not being able to download a key communication app because of your parents or technology. But overall, the positives seem to outweigh the negatives of these communication apps.
Before the pandemic, Instagram and Snapchat were used for quick communication or just to advertise your life by posting photos and videos on your account. But times have changed, and some now use Instagram and Snapchat for class group chats, meetup planning, video calling, and more. I utilized Instagram almost every day during the pandemic, and I expect to continue to use it daily even when we return to our “normal” social lives. Even though group chats might die out and there might be less users livestreaming on the app, I’m sure that many will continue to use it. On the other hand, while I’ve definitely kept Snapchat downloaded on my phone even though I might not check my messages every day. I’m more active on Instagram personally, but during the pandemic, I kept daily streaks on Snapchat with many of my middle school friends, and it was nice to connect with them even though we don’t see each other every day anymore. I expect to keep using that tool on Snapchat even after we recover from the pandemic. A slightly different situation lies with Discord, one of the most popular social media apps. Before schools were shut down, I thought of Discord as just a version of iMessage, but with options to make it more useful as a gaming platform. But since the pandemic hit New York City, I’ve learned that Discord offers so much more. I have joined several Discord servers and found you can create voice channels, text channels, minigame channels, add bots to provide special content for things like birthdays and pet ownership, and more. In my opinion, Discord has almost been a second home. On the app, I talk to all of my friends I’ve made this year at beacon. It has a multitude of abilities that suit our needs during the pandemic such as video, text, and voice calls, as well as music, streams, and more. Overall this app has been a very useful tool to my fellow freshmen.
While apps that I’ve mentioned already skew younger, it’s worth mentioning apps like Facebook and Twitter becoming key for generally older generations. Facebook Messenger provides text, video, and voice chats. I rarely use Facebook Messenger, but I’ve found it useful when connecting with friends outside of the United States. Instead of paying extra for out-of-country calls, I’ve used Facebook Messenger to connect with them for free. Twitter also provides instant messaging, quick posts, and an interesting feed.
Lastly, let’s talk about the two most used video conferencing apps: Zoom and google meets. These conferencing apps have been the home of my education during the pandemic, and even though school isn’t the most fun all the time,these apps have helped me get to know my friends and teachers. Even though my generation has mostly used these apps for educational purposes, people all over the world use Zoom and Google Meet to connect with each other, whether they live in a different time zone, borough, or neighborhood.
Now that our nation is recovering from the COVID-19 with millions of people receiving vaccines, our regulations are loosening, and hopefully, we will be able to get back to our normal face-to-face conversations. But until then, it’s certainly been interesting to see what communication has been like during this time.