In the past, the first day of school for me was full of traditions. I have memories of organizing my locker, walking down hallways, finding my classes and eating in the cafeteria. This year, of course, has come with its own set of challenges through Covid-19 that have disrupted my usual first day of school routine. In the past, my first day of school always consisted of getting to school early to see my friends and get organized, while this school year started with me simply turning on my computer and joining my zoom class. As I saw my classmates’ faces on my screen, most of whom I haven’t seen in person since March, I realized how disconnected we can be without having the common space to connect and be with each other, whether that be at school or at work. In online classes, it can be hard to strike up genuine conversations beyond the generic placeholders, or find common interests without being in the same space to stimulate common thoughts. The question becomes, how can we remain connected and feel connected in an age where we are required to stay 6 feet apart?
I believe this process begins by redefining what social distancing is. The word “social” is often associated with tools used to bring people together even when they are not physically in the same space. Social media allows people to connect and share content with another from across the world, where social networking refers to general connectivity with other people via online platforms. Instead, I think we should refer to the practices of distancing 6 feet apart as physical distancing which emphasizes the importance of physically staying apart but allows for social connection due to technological advances we now have access to.
The importance of social connection while staying physically distanced cannot be understated. According to a Survey by SocialPro in March, around a third of American adults reported feeling lonelier than usual. Loneliness can lead to a slew of negative health effects – from poor decision making to depression. During the pandemic, these feelings became heightened. While there is no true substitute for the in person interaction many crave, there are many ways we can still connect during this time. Experts often suggest setting up video calls, sending mail, or picking up a project to help stay motivated. For me I chose to stay connected and active through service. I have done a variety of smaller projects during this time from making cards for kids to learning and spreading awareness on food deserts. Even though my actions may not have reached the billions of people affected by this pandemic, community service was and still is a way to feel connected in a time where the world is in a constant state of limbo. In a time where people are divided and alone due to the virus, community service and outreach can bridge the gap by bringing people together which is the social connection we all want.
I encourage you to try to find a way to connect with others today. Maybe it’s helping to organize a service project or maybe it’s sending a text to a friend who hasn’t checked in on it. We are not alone in this pandemic. In fact, we live in an age where we are more connected than ever. Let’s take advantage of that! Talk to someone, send an email, do a good deed – whatever you do remember you are not alone.
Emma is a rising sophomore. She is looking forward to making a difference with the Youth Volunteer Corps and serving her first term on the IYAB! Outside of these efforts, Emma is also involved with the local community through her work at a local educational nonprofit where she develops programs supporting disadvantaged youth. In her free time, Emma enjoys participating in all things musical theater. She also enjoys reading and playing violin. Emma is so grateful to be a part of this YVC team and can’t wait for a great year!