Communication in Times of COVID-19

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It is easy to feel quite isolated during social isolation. I find myself often reminiscing about the wonderful times I had with my friends at Jewell and wishing that I could interact with them as I did before. While social distancing makes it so that the kind of communication that I am used to with my peers is impossible, there are nonetheless ways to adapt to these times and still maintain our web of relationships. 

Text messages 

A tried and true favorite of teenagers everywhere, texting is the way most of us communicate with our friends on a daily basis. Given the social distancing measures that have been put in place, it seems that texting is slated to become even more popular. Though this website is pre-COVID-19, there are nonetheless some fun texting statistics to be found. One can only imagine the marked increase in texting and other cellular services during the times of the pandemic, especially considering that several agencies, including local governments, have taken to using text messages as a way of communicating with their customer base.

Text messages are a good way of quickly checking in with our friends, classmates and family. I would recommend, if you haven’t already done so, creating text message groups with your classmates in order to ensure that everyone understands the course material. It may be impossible for us to meet in person and have discussions, but that does not mean that we cannot use text messages as a way of making sure everyone is learning. Furthermore, having text message group chats with the people we care about – not just our classmates – is a good way of creating an avenue of fun, trivial communication. Perhaps in your practice of social distancing by, say, reading a novel, you come across a particular quote that you think that your family might enjoy. Letting people know that you care about them and are thinking about them becomes as easy as sending a quick little text. 

Phone calls

Despite the importance of texting as a way of communication, we often text people that we regularly encounter in our daily routines. Now that those routines have been sorely interrupted, we may find that we are no longer content with merely texting our loved ones. It can become easy to dissociate the person you are communicating with from the little text bubbles that magically appear on your screen. Is there really a person behind the appearance of the bouncing ellipses of a soon-to-be sent text message? Who is typing? To remind yourself that the people you are receiving text messages do, in fact, exist, it may be good to set up a good, long phone chat. 

Now normally I am quite firmly against phone calls. When people call me unexpectedly, it is equivalent to someone showing up at my house and knocking on the door uninvited. If I answer the call, or the door, I am opening myself up to a form of communication, which, once initiated, cannot be interrupted save rudely or awkwardly, and thus I may find myself trapped by social niceties in some dull conversation or another. If something is so dreadfully urgent that it cannot be communicated to me in a text message, then why would a phone call be a better way of doing so? Usually I answer phone calls if and only if I have been forewarned as to when the call will occur and what the specific conversation will be about. But even then, I would much rather prefer an in-person meeting. 

Given that in-person meetings are sadly not recommended, it would seem that phone calls are now the way to go. I would suggest sending a text message to the person which you plan to call beforehand so as to not frighten them by a sudden appearance of your name on their phone screen. However, if you know that the person that you intend to call likes to live on the edge, then, by all means, call sporadically. It may be that spontaneously calling someone is a way of showing that person that you think about them unprompted, that you are wishing them well during these times and nd more, importantly, that you miss the sound of their voice and your interactions together. 

Emails 

Though the United States has pledged itself to maintaining normal mailing operations during this pandemic, it is undeniable that mailing services are under serious pressure by the increased demand for online goods, the lack of airplane traffic and by the increased sanitation standards coupled with a lack of resources to uphold said standards. As a result, I am hesitant to suggest that we should engage in any sort of pen pal behavior. Packages and letters are delayed, and postal service workers routinely test positive for COVID-19. While it is unlikely that one will catch COVID-19 from a letter or package, particularly if one is intelligent and handles packages with due care – like washing hands – the fact of the matter is that postal services, particularly postal workers, are overwhelmed as it is.

I would suggest that perhaps the best way to scratch our romantic urge for letter-esque communication would be to stick to flowery emails. E-mail communication is a lot less of the back and forth texting ping-pong which we college students are so acquainted with. Because the nature of e-mail is such that we have a greater stretch of time to deliberate on our responses, e-mail can be a longer and richer form of communication than a text. It is important to note, however, that sometimes sending e-mails can be a slightly delayed process. Particularly now that most of us find ourselves back home with all of our family members, and that we are all simultaneously trying to access the Internet, it is unsurprising that our connection seems atrophied at times. Perhaps, apart from having a faster internet connection given that everyone else in our household may be asleep, sending someone an email may be more mysterious and Byronic if we choose some midnight hour to do so. 

 Video calls 

I’ve had very mixed success with my video calls to my friends, and so I’m putting this as the last recommendation on my list. As I’ve said before, most of us have gone back to our homes as part of social distancing. Therefore, we find that we must compete with all the inhabitants of our home for internet connection. As a result, though the initial joy of seeing my friends on video is great, the feeling is quickly smothered by a growing agitation with the constant buffering, freezing, cutting off and call-dropping. Nonetheless, if we avoid high traffic times, it may be possible for us to engage in video calls with the people we care about. There are multiple applications which can serve our video-chanting purposes:

Zoom

Most of us are probably quite familiar with this application, given that we have to use it for class purposes. Zoom is a pretty decent application. If you are having a Zoom conversation with less than three participants, then there are no time limits to your video conversation. But if there are more than three participants, and your account is a basic one, then the Zoom conversation cannot exceed 40 minutes. Zoom also has a chat option, and the application also displays when your friends are available for a meeting and when they are otherwise occupied. 

Discord 

Discord is a free application that is quite popular amidst gamers because of the fact that you can create voice servers to communicate with your buddies while simultaneously playing games. However, it is also possible to use Discord as a way of communicating with a friend through video chat. Discord only supports communication through video chat with one person at a time, so it may be better to use Discord’s text and voice server options as a way of frequent communication with your friends and save the video-chatting for some other platform. 

FaceTime

FaceTime is pretty much a classic amidst iOS users, given that the app comes pre-installed on everyone’s iPhone and iPad. The problem, of course, is that FaceTime does not work with Android users. Given that William Jewell College has given all its students iPads, this may not be a problem, but some of us may not have access to our iPads at all times. 

Skype 

I find that Skype has become a rather dated way of communicating with people through video chat, but this is probably the most common solution to communicating with friends who have different operating systems. Skype is available across multiple platforms. I find that the Skype software is rather annoying to deal with and would much prefer another form of video chatting. Furthermore, Skype does not offer end-to-end encryption, which secures your data and prevents it from being monitored by outside agencies. See this website for a discussion on Skype’s privacy policy and for a few other video-chat alternatives.

Agatha Gutierrez

Angelica Gutierrez is the page editor for Lifestyle on The Hilltop Monitor. She is a sophomore majoring in Oxbridge: History of Ideas.

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