Virtual Speed Friending is not how you make friends.
At least not the type of friend that is nurtured through time and trust.
But weeks of staring at the black squares of my classmates on Zoom and sitting at home had me starved for social interaction, so when I saw an advertisement for Associated Students, Inc.’s Virtual Speed Friending event on Oct. 7, I wanted to make a new friend.
Growing up, adults always told me that in college, you will make lifelong friends. As a fourth-year student approaching graduation, that notion has begun to haunt me, exacerbated by all of the experiences I missed out on thinking that I will have that opportunity tomorrow.
But since March, tomorrow no longer resembled the day before.
So there I was, smiling at the camera like an eager contestant on “The Bachelor,” sitting on my bed dressed in my finest, baggiest shirt as I stared at about 13 other participants, excluding the host from ASI.
The small crowd had me questioning my decision, but before I could exit out of Zoom, we were separated into breakout rooms armed with a discussion question.
The first round was about our favorite TV shows.
Awkward silence ensued as myself and two other participants waited politely for each other to speak up. That silence continued after each person answered, all three of us hesitant to open our mouths too soon and speak over someone lagging due to a poor WiFi connection.
That continued throughout all of the breakout room sessions, but in some groups, the silence stretched far too long, a troubling sign that even acquaintanceship would be too generous of a label.
To be fair, that was spurred on by the fact that after answering the given question, we still had time to spare. It meant that someone would have to muster up their best conversational skills and improvise.
And it turns out, that usually put us all more at ease.
I learned about my fellow speed frienders, a mix of students from first-years to transfers.
We all liked to sleep, shocking, and in one group, we agreed that Elle chose the wrong boy in “The Kissing Booth 2,” nevermind the fact that we all watched the cringey Netflix original.
And like me, I realized that many of them joined the event out of happenstance after seeing it advertised on social media.
“What’s the worst that can happen?”
A dangerous question, considering it is 2020, but those were the sentiments of many of the participants.
A few more students had joined Virtual Speed Friending about an hour into the two-hour event, but by then we had all met each other. As I was coming to terms with the fact that making a friend in this format was not realistic, a miracle happened.
I joined a breakout room with Zari, Kayla, Chloe and Alicia.
It started off as usual. We took turns sharing what are our favorite things to do on our days off from work or school. Then, Kayla mentioned she liked to travel, which prompted Alicia into mentioning she had never been on a plane.
Suddenly, it snowballed into us agreeing that we should go on a road trip to San Francisco.
Though we laughed at the notion of a group of strangers making travel plans, we exchanged our phone numbers and created a group message.
Moments later, we had to return back to the main session and join a new breakout room.
I know that we will never go on that road trip. But that does not matter to me.
At that moment, we were just a group of giggling college students chatting about having fun in a world where a pandemic does not exist.
And while we might not call each other friends, it felt like we could be.
Virtual Speed Friending may not be how you make friends, but it’s how you can have fun.
I did not need to make a friend, I realized, because spending time meeting new people, laughing at someone’s cheesy coronavirus joke and seeing two people hold up their cat to their cameras was more than enough.