The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

'We just clicked': Students find friendships on an online campus


DTH Photo Illustration. Student search through UNC’s Facebook groups to find other students to connect with during the COVID-19 pandemic and online learning.

A new semester means new opportunities to make friends in clubs and classes — but an unusual semester calls for unconventional methods. 

Some first years and transfer students have been turning to social media and virtual clubs for community during this remote semester. 

Facebook groups and Instagram pages are a central hub for first years looking for new friends, said Ronik Grewal, a first year student studying information science. He said the pages are mainly students sharing their interests and ways they can interact with each other in-person, such as hiking. 

“Because clubs aren't, and student organizations, aren't happening, all the classes are online on Zoom, so the traditional methods don't work anymore,” Grewal said. “So, Facebook has really come in clutch.” 

Jordan Aasman, a junior transfer student studying computer science and living in Morrison Residence Hall, said he is used to having to make new friends in new places because he moved around a lot throughout high school, but it’s never been like this. 

He said he couldn't make friends by just sitting in his dorm and not reaching out to people, so he emailed members of clubs to find out when they meet. He said he has found friends in clubs and organizations like Reformed University Fellowship at UNC, Carolina THINK and Undergraduate Business-Technology Club. 

“RUF meets quite frequently and so from showing up and participating in their meetings, just by being there, and the mere exposure effect by seeing people every day, you’re like ‘Wow that’s a friend' — even though I’ve only seen them through the screen on Zoom," he said.

He said he has also organized several Zoom study sessions with classmates via class group chats and by reaching out to classmates he met in Zoom breakout rooms. 

"Even though it’s been really hard meeting new people — and we probably haven’t made any best friends for life, especially with all these uncertain circumstances — there’s a lot of awkwardness, anxiety, uncertainty, putting yourself out there, getting rejected or not responded to," Aasman said.

Eddy Bernal Velazquez, a first year studying business and biology, said he’s been using an Instagram page where first-year students can post a picture and bio of themselves to find others with similar interests.

“I uploaded one. I actually met a lot of people,” Velazquez said. “I met one of my roommates for my apartment here, I met him through social media. He lived like 10 minutes away from me and so we met up and hung out and since then we just clicked.”

He said before the campus closed, he had met people through his roommate and through the campus ministry Summit College, where he found others who shared his love for soccer. 

He said that students should get used to meeting virtually — especially with COVID and taking precautions for others.

“I feel like once everything’s back to normal from the friends that I met virtually that we will be able to hang out on campus,” Velazquez said. “I feel like that will change a lot, because once we get to meet each other in person it will just be like a different click.”

Grewal said he initially expected that there would be enough time on campus to find clubs and organizations he would have enjoyed. 

He hopes his college experience is not altered too much further.

“Basically, I feel like these friends are really good to have right now, but they also could be really temporary, like kind of out of desperation,” Grewal said. “I think the friends I’m making right now, they seem like great people, and I actually have met some of them in person through Facebook groups, but ultimately I think when we get back to campus, we're going to probably find people we vibe with, like with the student organizations.”

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.