Illustration by Ren Rader
Relationships are a numbers game. If we meet enough people, chances are we’ll find someone that we click with. However, when we are not really supposed to be around others, it cuts down our odds of finding those people. Gone are the days of meeting people at parties, clubs or even in the seat next to us.
However, it does not matter what is going on in the world; we still need some level of social interaction. Therefore, we still want to maintain the relationships we have and attempt to form new ones. With the new restrictions, the way we do both will change, but much more will change when it comes to forming relationships.
Dr. Charles White, a psychology professor at Trinity, expressed his views on maintaining relationships online.
“It is easier to maintain a relationship online when you already know the person,” White said.
Forming relationships will be noticeably harder because we are not going to be in proximity to people as much as we are used to.
“The most important predictor of the people who you’ll be friends with is proximity,” White said.
We have all realized that feeling connected to people in Zoom classes is a lot harder than doing so in person, and there is a reason for that.
Dr. Lori Kinkler, a clinical psychologist that works with Trinity’s counseling center, expressed why she believes its harder to make connections online.
“I think it is harder to make new connections when we’re not in person because a lot of our interactions are body language, and a lot of times, what makes people feel close to each other is proximity,” Kinkler said.
Seeing each other in little boxes a couple of times a week unfortunately does not bring that necessary proximity.
There are three groups of Trinity students in this new world: the people living on campus, the people living off-campus in the San Antonio area and the people living and learning remotely. For the different groups of students, there are different ways to compensate for the lack of proximity. People living on campus can still engage in socially distanced activities.
“I’m seeing small groups of students who are wearing masks and more than six feet apart doing some sort of shared activity. I think that’s the way to go because it’s a shared interest, making memories, but not engaging enough that you’re not talking,” Kinkler said.
Students living off-campus in San Antonio have an advantage when it comes to maintaining social relationships with peers.
“My sense is that people living in San Antonio have become a household with their roommates, and for a lot of people, that is enough,” Kinkler said.
People living and learning remotely face a similar situation.
“I’m hoping that the people living at home already have a social system worked out for them,” Kinkler said.
However, if any of these groups want to form new relationships, they will have to put in more effort than usual.
“Be more assertive in terms of reaching out to people,” White said.
No matter where we live, we all have classes together, and we can take that time to make the most of the collaborative learning experience we are intended to have in college.
Dr. Angela Breidenstein, chair of the Education Department, asserts the value social relationships have on our learning.
“I believe strongly that students are learning as much from each other as from professors, and that learning is a social activity,” Breidenstein said.
A big part of the connections we make comes from cooperative learning.
“We try to enact cooperative learning as much as possible,” Breidenstein said.
Some of these aspects can be met by professors in class.
“I am trying to use more breakout rooms and polling,” White said.
However, part of it will have to come from reaching out and forming study groups or working on homework together.
What has not changed with these restrictions is that everybody has different needs. Some people need relationships more than others, and some people will have to work harder at it than others. It should not be something we stress about.
“Everybody knows it’s going to be a little bit awkward, but they are willing to put in that effort because everybody wants connection,” Kinkler said.