UT students talk making friends online during pandemic

Having+to+resort+to+making+friends+through+social+media%2C+UT+students+share+their+experiences+with+meeting+and+how+platforms+facilitated+in+being+social.

Reproduced with permission

Having to resort to making friends through social media, UT students share their experiences with meeting and how platforms facilitated in being social.

Sofia Treviño, Life and Arts Senior Reporter

Editor’s Note: The article first appeared as part of the August 23 flipbook.

Stuck at home for last year’s virtual fall semester, Karla Garduño eagerly followed fellow UT students who popped up on her Twitter timeline in hopes of making new friends. 

When Garduño came across her now-friend Ivanna Abi-Saab’s tweets, she messaged her because of how much she related to them. That initial interaction with Abi-Saab gradually blossomed into one of Garduño’s closest friendships.

“It’s even more unique because (I’ve) been talking to these people for an entire year and  haven’t even seen them in person,” public relations sophomore Garduño said. 

Many students have used online platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Zoom and GroupMe as a way to connect with their peers while in isolation for the last year and a half. As the University transitions to in-person classes for the fall semester, students anticipate finally uniting with their online friends.

Garduño said she looks forward to seeing her internet friends, but she plans on taking  precautions when initially meeting them in person, like convening with them on campus or other public places.

“Sometimes people don’t turn out to be (who) you expect, but at least online you have a trial,” Garduño said.

Abi-Saab said spending almost a year quarantining during the pandemic took a toll on her social skills and communicating online became her norm.

“It got to a point where I would freeze up in person,” Abi-Saab said. “I would stutter and I was like ‘No, this is embarrassing.’”

When Abi-Saab first met her current roommate, Maddie Beischer, in a UT GroupMe chat, the biology sophomore said she had a “friend crush.” After sending each other memes for almost a year, Abi-Saab said she considers Beischer her best friend. 

Abi-Saab said she mostly communicated with her friends online during her first semester at UT, but after getting her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in April, she said she started hanging out with them more in person.

 “Now my internet friends (are) my real-life friends,” Abi-Saab said.

Sophomore Thalía Menchaca said she made online friends through UT’s National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) chapter. After meeting fellow Hispanic students through the organization, she said she feels less scared to attend in-person classes. 

“It’s great to know there’s other people from the (Rio Grande) Valley now on our officer board,” Menchaca said. “I feel less alone already. I have these people here that are very much like me.”

Menchaca said having a group of friends before ever setting foot on campus will be one less challenge to tackle as classes begin.

“I feel like I thought it was gonna be a little easier because I am a giant introvert, and so I would rather meet people (online) than have to go to them and talk to them,” Menchaca said.

While she could see her friends on Zoom before, she said virtual interactions with them didn’t fully ease her loneliness because she knew they lived far away. Now, Menchaca said she looks forward to meeting her online friends in person. 

“It’ll be interesting in person because that kind of connection will be back in the room (and) that (connection) hasn’t been there for over a year now,” Menchaca said.