Overcoming the Pandemic Online

As we reach the one year anniversary of COVID-19 we have started to reflect on all of the things that have happened around the world because of the pandemic. A lot of people are talking about the results of quarantine and one of the major topics is the lack of human interaction and who has had the most difficulty with it. According to a recent Harvard Gazette article, teenagers and young adults have had the hardest time with quarantine and have feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. In order to cope with these feelings a lot of teens and young adults have started using apps like Yubo, Bumble, Tumblr, and Discord to make friendships during these crazy times.  

A recently released study by Making Caring Common states that 61 percent of 950 Americans used in the study are teens who have felt lonely almost all the time since quarantine had started. And the article “Teenagers during the coronavirus pandemic: The loneliness of an interrupted adolescence” from The Washington Post refers to a survey conducted by the CDC. The survey reported that around 26 percent of young adults had serious suicidal thoughts during some days of the quarantine and “mental health visits to the emergency rooms by 12- to 17-year-olds increased by 31 percent.”  Young adults and teens were so used to talking to their friends and going out and meeting new people that not being able to do so has left them feeling hopeless and alone. The pandemic is hard enough on its own for people to now start feeling like there’s no one there to help them through this time. Richard Weisbourd, a psychologist and senior lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education had this to say on the matter:

“If every person who’s in pretty good shape can make a commit to reaching out to one person they are concerned might be lonely once a week, that would be a good thing”.

Richard Weisbourd, a psychologist and senior lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education

Making sure that these young people are checked on and have someone to talk to about how they feel is very important for their mental health and overall wellbeing. One way this has happened is through the use of technology, more specifically the use of social apps. 

I have always been a social person and making friends would come easy to me, but somewhere along the loneliness of quarantine I started to forget how to interact with others. I felt alone in my struggle but knew that others must feel the same. I talked to friends to see what they had been doing to remain connected to others. One friend told me about some new apps that were being used to find people to talk to and get your mind off of all the chaos that was happening. One of these apps is Yubo, an app where you can “find new friends through live streaming and authentic interactions.” The app has a 4.6 star rating and over 238K ratings. You make a profile based on things that you like and what you are interested in talking to someone about and the app finds people for you to do so. There are specific settings to filter the results and you can even set the settings in order to be able to meet people from around the world.

Another app is Bumble. When people hear about Bumble they usually just hear that it’s a dating site, and while Bumble does have a feature for dating, it also has features for people to just meet friends or network for their profession. The app initially works like Tinder in the sense that a person’s profile comes up and you can swipe to either talk with them or if you’re not interested, to disregard the profile. I used Bumble for a little while on the friends platform and met some really interesting people that I felt like I could talk to about how I was feeling during the pandemic. 

Other apps like Tumblr and Discord focus more on the specific interest that people have in order to connect people. There are group chats created within the apps for people to talk about their shared interests. Sometimes people talk about their personal life and what they are going through so that they can get support from their new friends. 

While it is easy to find these socializing apps, it’s hard to know which are the right ones for you and how to stay safe while using them. I spoke to Jane Doe who is an entrepreneur and a social media brand ambassador who specifically works on connecting with others in order to further develop the brand. I asked how she interacts with people for her job and how she stays safe while doing it. She says, “I mostly reach out to people who I feel could be potential customers for the brand and talk to them about our brand and why they should be interested. In regards to staying safe online, I make sure never to give out personal information or any details that I feel like could help someone track me.” We hear a lot about the many ways that not being safe online can lead to someone being hurt so it’s important to keep those stories and tips in mind when online meeting new people. 

Making friends in person is hard enough for young adults and teens and now that things have taken to the internet, it has become even more difficult. In a time where it feels like we are all so far apart it is important to remember that we can all still stay connected. Although it’s still hard to go out and meet people because of the pandemic, I think that the next best thing is definitely these social apps but it’s crucial to stay safe while doing so. So go online to make new friends and new connections and remember that you are not alone.

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