How exactly did COVID-19 pandemic impact friendships? We’re sure it’s different from how people in romantic relationships have dealt with social distancing challenges.
Still, intimacy sans proximity is quite challenging to cultivate — but not impossible. While house parties, restaurant dinners together, spontaneous sleepovers and impromptu beach getaways have all but disappeared, it has been replaced by other activities that also make friendships flourish even while apart.
Ahead, people share how the pandemic has changed their friendships and what they do to nourish these relationships.
The college experience now online
Gone are the days when campus grounds and hallways are crowded with hoards of students. These days everything is much more subdued. Many still do distance learning or opt for a hybrid system where some classes are done face-to-face but the rest are done online. Because of this, that much-talked-about dynamic college experience we see in coming-of-age movies where socialising freely with peers is a given has vanished.
“Before the pandemic, me and my college buddies would meet and go to cafes to chill and spend time together,” Malaysian college student Adriana Latif shared. Now, socialisation is done mostly online and even that has become sparse. “At first, we stayed in touch through phone a lot. But as weeks and weeks go by, everyone just went back to living their own lives without much update.” This phenomenon has a name — Zoom Fatigue. It’s when you feel a sense of burnout or satiety from online interactions. And it’s not applicable to just work meetings but also personal online hangouts.
Thankfully, movement control restrictions have been relaxed to a certain degree as vaccines have rolled out and people can meet again. As for Adriana, she is able to meet her college friends and some classmates again at least three times a month. “We met to do assignments and spend time together,” she said. “We do the same things as before like eat while walking together, but it’s not the same. It’s just not as festive as before.” Nevertheless, Adriana can safely say that her bond with friends is still there. “It’s just that we can’t stay connected all the time because of technical difficulties but also we get tired of using the phone or just not in the mood to share stories through the phone and prefer it face-to-face. One thing that I realised is that the friendship is still there,” she said.
Taking after-work hangouts from the club to the home
There’s a lot of talk about the death of the office. Thanks to the pandemic, the traditional workplace as we know it may never come back. For 9-5 desk jockeys, this phenomenon comes with a lot of perks. No more of that gruelling daily commute; you can wear whatever you want while working, and enjoy the company of your family and pets all day long. However, it also comes with its own expense — increased electricity bills, distractions and decreased interactions with office friends. Once, we spent about 40 hours working beside them but now that number has gone to as low as zero.
The good news is that there’s a way to bond with office buddies even while working from home. Take it from Clozette Campaign Manager Stephanie. “To be honest, I didn't feel like the work from home arrangement affected our bond with each other at all. In fact, it has brought us even closer as we would make some effort to work together at each other's house,” she said. As someone who’s living with a baby nephew at home, Stephanie would be on the hunt for places where she can concentrate and her office friend’s house is a prime candidate. “Her granny would cook lunch or dinner for me every time we're working from her place together.”
Their after working hours bonding sessions are also still very much alive albeit in a different way. Instead of hitting nearby bars and clubs, they instead go to the beach or just hang out at each other's houses. “We became quite domesticated,” Stephanie said.
Making the most out of dining out
Like most people, digital content creator and account manager Denise has also relied on Zoom calls, virtual meetings and group chats to connect with her friends. This made her feel that some of her relationships have become sort of stagnant. “It’s so hard to connect to people online — even with my closest friends. I feel so distant despite being able to chat with them every day. It’s just different being with people physically,” she said.
Once community quarantine guidelines in the Philippines were relaxed, Denise was finally able to meet up with friends. “We go out once in a while these days,” Denise said. “I personally prefer having dinners than staycations and travels due to lots of protocols for other activities. Dining out is the easiest.” However, it isn’t as carefree as before. Planning is key and Denise even shared that, on some occasions where there will be more people meeting up, her friends have themselves tested before meeting up. Making the most out of dinners has become imperative and each hang-out is cherished and extra special.
Maintaining friendships during a time when usual meet-up places — college libraries, office pantries and more — are inaccessible can put a strain on these relationships. But there are also things we can do to still have that bond with our dearest friends. After all, it’s during this tumultuous time that we need each other the most.
(Cover photo from: Simon Maage via Unsplash)
Next, learn how to maintain long-distance friendships here.