Friendships in the Age of Remote Learning

Mamie Rushkoff, Contributing Writer

In late August, when the school assigned green and gold groups, friendships began to change. Students who attended school began coming in either in the first or second half of the week, while some students chose to remain at home full time. With the shift to a hybrid schedule in the beginning of the year, new friendships may have started while others splintered. Friendships involve an emotional intimacy that cannot be created through a screen, and although virtual interactions can open up new ways to connect and might strengthen friendships in some senses, a seven-hour school day leaves little free time for most students even without extracurricular activities.

Sophomore Isabella Depriest-Sullivan thinks that “being remote has made it harder to maintain friendships, but the hybrid schedule means I can still be ‘in school’ with my friends on some days which helps.” Hanging out with friends at lunch (or Facetiming them if you are both at home) is one of the few ways to connect during the week since students have after-school obligations and homework.

The Buzzer conducted a survey with about 70 students throughout Hastings High School. When students were asked if they made new friends during remote learning, 50% agreed, while another 13% felt neutral and 37% of students disagreed. Since the assigned cohorts force students to get out of their comfort zones and meet new people, remote learning offers a unique opportunity in this small school full of smaller friend groups. 

Oliver Fuchs, a junior, added that, “[I] definitely became closer with some people that I probably wouldn’t have if not for hybrid learning. You really just become closer with the people that are in your classes since those are the only people you see.” 

79% of students also agreed that they have drifted from friends. It is inevitable that people (certainly high school students) lose friends over time, but it is much easier to lose friends when people are stuck in their houses in the middle of a pandemic. 

Julien Amsellem noted that, “many of [my friends] can’t spend as much time with me outside of school.” 

Many students share Julien’s experiences, and they only interact through a screen or in person if they’re lucky enough to be in the same cohort as their friends. One of the only ways to connect is over their cell phones, but some people have poor Wi-Fi or old phones. Many don’t even have apps like FaceTime. Texting, while an effective way to communicate, simply isn’t as intimate as video chat or seeing someone in person. 

Sophomore Ione Shih said, “I have no casual classmate friends anymore so the only way I can maintain relationships is if I make an effort for them.” When it comes to social media, getting up the courage to talk to people is tough. Video calls do not come easily to everyone and can even bring up some nerves when it is one of the only ways to reach out. While texting can be at whatever time and may be less intimidating, it has no tone or beat and students can’t hear real emotions as they are happening — it does not create a rhythmic conversation.

The assigned groups for hybrid learning are both positive and negative. In the survey, 53% of students said that they disagreed that hybrid learning was socially beneficial, while 43% agreed. Certainly detachment from friends during the time of Covid-19 is awful, but every year we are thrust into a new world when we get our schedules in August. Friend groups are always split up by new class schedules, leaving everyone in need of new peers to talk to. Everyone is feeling the same way, even if some look completely confident. Some may have a harder time adjusting and branching out than others, which makes the adjustment more prominent. 

The shift into hybrid learning put a strain on some students and their friends, but it also forced people to start new friendships. Many people are having a hard time socializing in the alternative cohort; if you are feeling this way, know you are not alone. Since we are supposed to be going back to school on April 12th we have an opportunity to rekindle old friendships and to spend quality time together, so use that to your advantage! You can even reach out to a friend if you haven’t talked in a while — they would definitely appreciate it.