Sophomore Abby Morrow poses in a vineyard. Morrow shared this photo on Instagram as a way to keep her friends updated on her life. Photo courtesy of Abby Morrow
As Pepperdine students spread out across the globe, many find it difficult to connect with their peers. One way some students are creating community with each other is through social media.
Engaging with fellow Waves online has provided an outlet to both connect and cope during this socially distanced semester — something students are experiencing at colleges across the country, according to the Chronicle at Duke University. Senior Daniela Singleterry said she feels the community she and her classmates have found through social media has helped them to deal with the uncertain circumstances of COVID-19.
“I think we definitely have had to band together because it’s been really stressful to have to move away from school and adjust to online learning,” Singleterry said. “So I feel like a lot of people are finding relief in social media and humor and finding a way to stay connected.”
This sense of community fostered through social media has allowed sophomore Abby Morrow to stay up-to-date with the lives of her close friends while also making new ones.
“I feel like with a lot of students who I didn’t really talk to on campus, we’ve sort of all bonded over the experience of everything that’s happened just by making little Pepperdine jokes and memes,” Morrow said.
Morrow said she feels more connected to her classmates online than she did when everyone was on campus together, citing that without a physical gathering place to discuss Pepperdine-related issues, everything has to take place among students’ social media accounts.
“I do feel like I have talked to a lot more people [on social media], whereas when we’re all on campus, people just kind of stay in their little circles and don’t always try to branch out,” Morrow said.
Both Singleterry and Morrow said the social media platform they most often use to connect with fellow students is Twitter.
“Whenever something big happens — whenever we get an announcement or find out new information — everyone automatically goes to Twitter to see everyone’s take on it,” Singleterry said. “I feel so open to people [on Twitter] whenever I see us all talking about the same thing because I know we’re experiencing the same thing.”
“[Twitter] really, really brings people together because you can talk to people you don’t even know,” Singleterry said. “Everyone’s connected.”
Even though students are having positive experiences online and creating community, there is also a sense of pressure surrounding social media and the expectations that come with it.
For Morrow, this pressure stems from the effort it now takes to stay in communication with people.
“Catching up with people and keeping up to date with people’s lives requires reaching out right now,” Morrow said. “All my friends are in different states, and there’s no natural way we can just run into each other, so social media is the best little overview [of their lives].”
With all classes online, students spend a lot of time daily in front of their screens doing work. This can make the socialization that takes place through social media feel almost like an extra virtual task.
“You’re already on a screen all day, and you’re already typing and virtually talking to people all day, so to get on Instagram or Twitter just feels really draining,” Singleterry said. “So it’s definitely a catch-22 because that’s the only way to stay in contact and connect with people, so you want to do it — but it’s exhausting to have that much screen time.”
Morrow recently went on a social media cleanse to try to reduce her screen time and escape that exhaustion, but she said she found a new problem in her social media life: a lack of connection.
“I felt so out of the loop,” Morrow said. “I never realized [social media] is how my friends and I keep in touch all day. We send each other memes, and I read their thoughts on Twitter or see pictures of them on Instagram.”
Despite many students’ socialization currently taking place online, there is still something powerful about the Pepperdine community coming together to get through this tough time, Morrow said.
“There is something to be said for these uncertain sort of situations,” Morrow said. “I feel like we’re clinging on to each other for hope almost or comfort because we’re all going through the same thing and we understand what it’s like.”
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Contact Addie Whiten via Twitter: @addisonwhiten or by email: email@example.com