All for One and One for All 

Forming Relationships Over Zoom

by Abigail Martin

With the pandemic, social distancing and Zoom calls make the relationships between peers and teachers much more strained and forced. In the age of Zoom, we find ourselves asking how high schoolers can still safely spend time with friends and peers. I sat down with a CHS focus group filled with sophomores to try to understand what relationships are like in a Zoom world.

 

“The dynamics between classmates are definitely different. Like, when we join breakout rooms it's good to see each other and talk, but it's not the same as being together,” says Mahdis, a student involved in the remote learning pathway (RLP) structure. With classmates currently in different environments, connecting with them over Zoom is more difficult, especially in breakout rooms where engagement with your peers is often sporadic and disconnected. 

 

Zoe, a member of the RLP structure talked about trying to form connections with people in breakout rooms, which often put lots of social pressure on individuals, and can also signal total disengagement in the class. “Being put into breakout rooms is a game of luck. Do they have their camera on? Are they muted? [...] I can be prepared to discuss an assignment, but my partner could just ignore me.” 

 

Lucia, a member of the hybrid continuum, agreed and responded, “When I am in a breakout room with a random person, sometimes it is dead silent the entire time. It’s like talking into a wall of nothingness. You say something, and you just have to hope they respond.” However, breakout rooms can potentially work great in situations that make the participants feel comfortable and included. Mahdis noted that “Breakout rooms are helpful when you are with your friends. [...] You talk about the subject, and you are comfortable with them.” 

 

It is true, speaking in front of new people is an acquired skill and, according to Very Well Mind, a website focusing on delivering factual information on mental health and psychology reports that an estimated 77% of people have some fear of public speaking, even in intimate social situations. This fear of public speaking sometimes reaches further than the breakout room and can impact the flow of the whole class. 

 

Kitana, a transfer from the hybrid structure to the RLP, spoke upon this saying, “There is not as much communication between students and teachers.”  Laura, a member of the hybrid continuum plan, echoed this saying, “I walk into classes sometimes, and I think I am in the wrong place. It’s like ‘I don’t recognize anyone here!’ It’s really strange. I feel disconnected from everyone. Whether or not they are sitting next to me or they are on a screen.” 

 

This is not just due to the fear of public speaking, but also just the awkwardness of Zoom! There are some parts of Zoom that decrease social anxiety. Iva, a member of the hybrid continuum, said, “I really like how Zoom has the private chat feature. If I have a question, I’m not the one to raise my hand and participate. However, on Zoom, if I have a question, I can ask it through private chat. It’s nice because we have a conversation.” Others think that there is a low level of privacy on Zoom, especially when chat features are disabled or strictly made public. Nadira, a transfer from the hybrid continuum to the RLP, commented, “It's harder to have one to one communication with teachers on Zoom. If I need help, I don’t want everyone to hear my question,” says Nadira. 

 

However, there are benefits to learning how to deal with uncomfortable situations early. Zoe talked about the benefits of being placed in awkward situations saying, “I definitely agree that it is nice to be put into breakout rooms with your friends, I do feel more comfortable to be with people I know. But at the same time, in the real world, you won’t always be put with your friends. Sometimes you will be put with someone random.” Understanding that no matter how the world looks post-COVID-19, telecommunication will be an important part of the workplace environment. 

 

Iva also enjoys the benefits of early exposure to telecommunication saying, “I think especially now our society heavily relies on technology. Learning about that at a young age is really beneficial in order to develop our careers. It’s really cool how we use technology in a way that can help us now but can also help us in our later life, too… if it’s still around!”

 

Socialization, especially in teens is quite important. According to Today’s article, “More Than Just Friday Night Fun: Socially Active Teens Are Physically Healthier,” socially active teens are less likely to be obese and have less stress than their lonelier peers. While on Zoom, combating loneliness can be quite important. In the next article, you will see the benefits of joining Zoom clubs and interacting with your peers, even in a new format!