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Social media has always been one of those things I’m unable to use consistently. While this may be obvious from my sparse Instagram posts, it is no secret to those who know me that I prefer the familiar intimacy of physical interactions, such as in the parking lot of a local coffee house or after school in my favorite classroom.

But once the final scene of my high school coming-of-age movie abruptly ended due to the coronavirus pandemic, my days of aimlessly driving around suburbia and having spontaneous hangouts did as well. The words “6-feet apart” with “unprecedented times” would become a global mantra. Replacing the lightness of waiting for prom and graduation with the demands of completing AP exam reviews with online coursework, staying informed of current events, having some semblance of mental stability, and attempting a FaceTime schedule with friends overwhelmed me.

Life has been stagnant within these four walls of my bedroom—minus mild deviations in weather—for the past four or five months. My mind oscillates between the optimism of last winter and the anxiety of next fall. Consequently, social media became not only a vital tether to my friends from high school but also the bridge I needed to connect with the college community (as well as preserve my sanity). One of the ways I have explored Columbia through social media is @roar2024, an Instagram page created by Columbia Undergraduate Admissions for the incoming class after regular decision acceptances.

Through navigating Q&A’s, class announcements, and New York City resources, I have, interestingly enough, felt comfortable connecting with campus virtually as the page manages to make Columbia feel personal to incoming first-years, despite the lack of the traditional all-physical events such as the New Student Orientation Program.

The most interesting feature of the page is #meet2024mondays, during which students are featured with a picture and biography, a common pre-college social ritual used in the search for roommates, friends within your (tentative) majors, and people who share similar interests. However, during a time when incoming first-years struggle with a lack of high school closure and the uncertainty of life at a new campus, the simplicity of submitting a bio, direct messaging a fellow classmate, and hoping for a friendship or two by summer’s end holds higher stakes. Experiencing your first year—typically heralded as a year of socializing—through only a few months on campus with limited social contact before waiting another year to be on campus again has created a common hesitance in trying to make intimate relationships.

As I began writing this, I used the hashtag to find fellow first-years to interview regarding their thoughts on the upcoming year and held my breath—a personal ritual I perform when attempting conversation with new people—hoping that an interview from someone whom they’ve never met didn’t seem strange. Surprisingly, people were eager to finally speak to someone about the topic, even more so over a call, the closest one can get to physical conversations in quarantine.

Despite the awkwardness of speaking over one another during Zoom calls and then falling silent until one person elects to continue, these meetings have reminded me of the reason that I fell in love with Columbia—how even though the community is diverse in prior experiences and perspectives, we can still strongly empathize with one another.

I felt the anxiety of not truly moving on from high school as much as I laughed over the ridiculousness that we have been plunged into since the end of our senior year. There is a strange solace in having similar experiences due to the pandemic that makes us more eager to recount the major events in our lives that got us to Columbia’s campus. It’s a miraculous feeling, and it’s something that would probably have been less apparent without the quarantine.

I have my own anxieties about my first year at Columbia and the social aspect of campus life, which I am sure many other first-years and Columbia students share as well. Personally, I wonder if quarantining has been a breath held in for far too long, carrying anxiety, sadness, uncertainty, and creativity within it. However, with Columbia facilitating a virtual bond between this class, the school, and the greater community, I feel a slight sense of relief looking toward the fall—despite the social distance.

The Eye fellow Munirat Suleiman can be contacted at Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

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Roar24 Class of 2024 Social Media Coronavirus Intimacy Virtual College first-years Community Campus COVID-19 Quarantine Instagram