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Steps To Keeping And Maintaining Friends On Campus In the Middle Of A Pandemic

Staff Writer Maddie Goodman wants you to make friends without becoming a superspreader event.

For those students living in New York this semester, reconnecting with pre-COVID friends as well as making new COVID friends (I say affectionately), is delightful. Desperate for human connection after months of relying on split-second eye-contact encounters on the street as our main source of oxytocin, those of us back near campus have made eager efforts to return to normalcy by seeing friends in safe, socially distanced, outside settings. While Columbia provides its own set of COVID rules, it is rather limited in scope and quite frankly outlines the bare minimum: wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands, and limit suite capacity to ten people from the same dorm. In this era of limited interactions, good communication has become essential to make and maintain friendships, and as new adults, our communication skills are basically enduring a COVID bootcamp. In order to avoid sitting in a pool of your own anxiety, guilt, shame, fear or a toxic combination of all four, follow these steps! 

  1. Establish that you genuinely want to bless this person with your presence. In the middle of a pandemic, no more time for fake laughs and forced conversations, especially when you’re risking the propagation of a deadly virus! 
  2. Now that mutual consensus has been reached, time for…honesty! It’s tempting to quickly make seemingly low-risk plans with someone like grabbing coffee and taking it to Low, but this can ultimately lead to uncomfy moments, or even deceit. Before committing to eating or consuming anything with this person, activities which require masks be taken off, make sure you each understand the environments that you’re coming from by addressing some or all of these concerns: 
    1. Define each other’s living situation: Are you living with other people? People you know well? Do you have guests over? Does your living space have a mask policy for guests? 
    2. Talk about different social settings and the social risks you each have been comfortable taking or not taking. Afterall, while anyone with a soul would avoid a rager like the plague that it is right now, it’s quite plausible that your friend is spending time indoors, unmasked with different small groups multiple times a week. If planning on spending a lot of time with this person, ask: Have you been indoors unmasked with people whom you aren’t living with? If so how many?  If their answer is above what you yourself would be comfortable with, return to step 1.
    3. With COVID, the issue of public transport has become contentious, with those who can afford private transport choosing to do so and perhaps being wary of those who continue to use the subways or buses out of necessity. Rather than argue over right and wrong, simply ask and answer honestly: Are you taking public transportation? Do you feel that other Columbia students should be using public transportation? By asking these questions, you can avoid the incredibly awkward moment of learning that your friend believes no one should be taking the subway as you sit together eating dinner after having ridden the subway. 
  3. Now that you’ve both learned way too many details about the risks you each take in this new COVID world, it’s much easier to plan an activity that you’re confident won’t lead to either of you taking unwanted and unknown risks. Your friend takes the subway each day and you’re not comfortable with that? Go for a walk in the park together with masks on! You both live on campus, haven’t been taking public transport, and only see two people inside unmasked? Great, grab some takeout to eat on Low! 
  4. While making new or connecting with old friends is the first step in ensuring that your COVID winter will not be as lonely as you COVID summer, keeping and maintaining those healthy and safe connections requires continuous honesty! Did you do something out of your ordinary this week such as attend a protest, or forget to get your weekly COVID test? Be up-front with your friend you had plans with as they may want to change your activity or reschedule. 
  5. Let go of your judgements. There are those of us who take risks and make choices based purely on science and there are those of us who rationalise our behaviors from an emotional and intentional standpoint. In this unprecedented time, everyone’s behavior is full of contradictions, and confusions, so don’t judge your friend for taking the bus, especially if you had drinks at the bar this weekend. Instead, establish transparency in your communications, and choose to do what you yourself are comfortable doing. 

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  • Ariana says:

    @Ariana Loved it!

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