Remote learning eliminates the social aspect that school provides, ruining the opportunity to make school friends and making students feel a new sense of loneliness. (Caroline McElhannon)
Remote learning eliminates the social aspect that school provides, ruining the opportunity to make school friends and making students feel a new sense of loneliness.

Caroline McElhannon

OPINION: Remote learning may make school friends a thing of the past

November 12, 2020

Friends fall on a spectrum. On one end, there are those we consider acquaintances; we see them in the hallways and crack a light-hearted smile, but the conversation never goes further. On the opposite end, there are those we consider our close friends. With them, your phone is constantly lighting up with their contact name, spamming you with texts regarding after school plans or buzzing about the adventures the weekend will bring. They are stuck like glue by your side and will follow you to the ends of the Earth. In the middle of this spectrum there is a perfect medium known as ‘school friends.’ 

However, due to remote learning, the ‘no strings attached’ type of friendship is going extinct. Without the physical social scene regular school provides, students have no opportunity to get to know their fellow classmates and develop the ‘school friend’ relationship. The remote learning experience consists of nothing but muted microphones and awkward silence, creating the worst possible environment for friendships to flourish. 

The extent of your friendship ends within the four walls of the classroom. … Your personal lives do not coincide outside of class, these people are without a doubt necessary relief in an otherwise unbearable school day.”

School friends are classmates you sit next to everyday but never see beyond West Essex grounds. The extent of your friendship ends within the four walls of the classroom, yet there never seems to be an awkward pause in conversation or shortage of laughs. Although your personal lives do not coincide outside of class, these people are without a doubt necessary relief in an otherwise unbearable school day.

“School friends are people that you like but don’t really share a lot of similarities with besides the classes you take,” junior Brandon Kinsella said. “You gain a friendship through talking to them at school, but once you go home you don’t share the same social life.”

There is a beauty in having ‘school friends’ in addition to your regular friends. 

“School friends are usually always chill and have no complications whereas you sometimes have issues with your close friends,” Kinsella said.“School friendships are very constant which is a nice change.” 

“I like how since you don’t share the same social life there is no drama or tension when you talk to them, so it is always light hearted and fun,” junior Noah Decker said. 

Although it may not seem like a big deal to lose someone you see a couple times a week, the idea that you don’t know you love something until it’s gone holds true for school friends, for students are starting to realize the impact these friendships had on their overall school experience. 

“School friends made school bearable,” Kinsella said. “Going through online school I find that I don’t really have anybody to talk to because it’s just me in my room, whereas when your at school there is always that one person that you have in a couple classes that you can talk to, which kind of takes the seriousness and work off of school and makes it more fun.”

Teachers have tried to mimic the social aspect of school through a Zoom feature known as ‘breakout rooms,’ in which a randomized group of students are placed in a virtual room to discuss answers, work on projects and brainstorm. While the idea sounds good in theory, students rarely come off mute or even turn their cameras on, thus creating a void of awkward silence rather than an opportunity for chatter. Overall, students feel as though breakout rooms have proven to be an inadequate form of socialization. 

School friends made school bearable. Going through online school, I find that I don’t really have anybody to talk to.”

— Brandon Kinsella

“Breakout rooms are really only three minutes and most of the time no one even speaks,” Decker said. “Also, you’re with different people every time so there is no sense of consistency. I think that makes it really hard to make friendships.”

“There is no real way to have school friends in online school because you are not seeing them physically,” freshmen Nicole Campolattaro said. “You can text them but it is not the same as talking to them.”

However, the school’s plans for hybrid instruction, where students are placed in three different cohorts to alternate in-person schooling, provides a sliver of hope to save the concept of school friends. With West Essex split into three, there is less of a chance that students will be in school with their defined group of friends, hopefully encouraging students to branch out. 

“I can’t spend the entire day of school being completely mute and not talking to anyone, so I think being in a cohort will force me to branch out and talk to new people,” Kinsella said. “It’s either that or not talk to anyone at all.”

The loss of school friends is one of the many casualties West Essex students have faced due to COVID-19, and we can only hope that we can find our footing in this new normal. Although remote learning is not ideal for social interaction, maybe it’s a sign to turn your school friends into close friends you can enjoy in and out of the classroom.

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