I think we all remember what we were doing the day before we left Yale. I was on a Durfee’s run with my friends, saying goodbye to people I ran into on the street. That memory replays in my head often. It was so easy to run into friends, so easy to maintain connections, and all while I picked up a glass frappuccino.
Most of the time nowadays, I’m looking at a computer screen. Whether it be classwork, social media or talking to friends, I can make everything go away by pressing the power button. It’s that easy. At Yale, I ran into my friends a lot. Now, it’s rare that we even interact with more than a few people a day.
Our connections at Yale were fostered for us; we didn’t have to put too much active thought into them. Dining hall meals, movie nights and study sessions made it impossible not to interact with people every day. There’s the age-old joke about that GCal meal we forgot, but for the most part, we were given all the materials we needed to maintain and build our friendships.
Now, it’s different for those of us at home. We have to try harder.
Before coming to Yale, I was excited about the long-lasting relationships that I’d create. After having been at Yale for a few years, however, I worry that many Yale students value networks over real connections. Transient friendships plague the way we connect with each other. We value each other for social or academic “clout.” Instead of focusing on the meaningful bonds we can make with one another, we look for utility in our friendships.
Sustaining relationships with people only when they are immediately relevant to our lives makes us stray away from meaningfully connecting with each other. This lack of meaningful connection has made friendships expendable. When the friendships we cultivate are so short-lived, it’s easy to cut someone off. We’ve stopped working through our problems. Instead, we erase the person from our lives.
Having everything online has only exacerbated these problems: we all lead busy lives and try to accomplish big things. But maybe instead of texting your friend, FaceTime them. Foster the meaningful face-to-face conversations that were created for us at Yale. Check in on friends and show them that you still value them. We just need to communicate actively, not passively — schedule Zoom calls, make virtual meal plans with remote friends and recreate the college atmosphere as best you can. Be the first to text, send memes, call each other. Don’t disappear off the face of the planet, just because it’s easy. Quarantine is lonely, but we just need to remember that we are socially distanced, not socially isolated.
Yale’s heart lies in the people we meet. So why are we sacrificing that? We are all going through innumerable stressful experiences, and the news seems only to compound our anxieties. More than ever, our friends can provide joy. We still have the Yale community — we just have to choose to actively participate.
NISHITA AMANCHARLA is a junior in Saybrook College. Her column runs on alternate Mondays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.