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Taking the Leap Into Online Friendships

by Caroline Crowley

Flashback 2019

I was nervous, to say the least. Splash Weekend at MIT was here—the event I had been waiting for—and I had no idea where to start. My parents had dropped me on the doorstep of my dad’s old school to take part in awesome classes like Quidditch for Muggles and Swing Dancing. Problem was, I didn’t know anyone on the campus. I found myself rooted in place in the Rogers Building atrium, dwarfed by the column at my back and eyes fixed on my schedule.

“Hey! Cool bag! You from Britain?”

I looked up, away from the Union Jack on the flap of my bag and into a new face. A girl about my age was walking by and spontaneously offered the compliment.

“Oh, no. I live just outside of Boston. It’s a souvenir,” I replied, startled but glad for the company. She smiled, turning to the marble pedestal nearby. Another group of Splash students were perched there, laughing together.

She plopped her own bag down and tried to join them on the ledge above. As she struggled, I found myself letting go of my nerves and walking over.

“Need some help?” I surprised myself, I wasn’t famous for starting conversations. I gave her a leg up and was turning away when I heard her call back, “You coming?”

I blinked. “Yeah, yeah I am.” I grabbed the top of the cold marble and leaped up the side.

“Woah! That was super cool! How’d you make it look so easy?” she quipped, taking a selfie of the seven of us on the pedestal.

I grinned. Taking that leap was the easy part.



Cut to 2020, and the contrast between Splash last year and HSSP this summer couldn’t be greater. Then, it was a beautiful fall weekend with hundreds of teens dipping their toes into the MIT experience. A year later, lockdowns and quarantines. Now we’re shipwrecked and trying to use everything we can salvage to stay afloat in our young lives.

No summer camps, no in-person classes, and no meeting up with friend groups. It’s unbelievably isolating. Yet, I’m managing to forge new ties. Splash gave me more than a great introduction to college. It showed me how vital it is to take a chance in creating a connection, or making a comment in an online class, or sending a friendly text to someone you don’t know well. It’s weird, and scary, and nowhere near what we’re used to. But just try to reach out and you’ll be surprised at how eagerly people snatch up the opportunity to talk to others. The last six weeks of HSSP let me put this theory to the test and take those chances again—virtually.

That weekend with the Pedestal Gang was a turning point. It was more than just a group of friends to me—it was an instant bond that I’ve looked back on when I need the confidence to talk to someone new. Since then, I’ve made more of an effort to connect with others, which has resulted in some awesome friendships that have kept me going throughout quarantine.

Let’s face it, we’re all highly self-similar sharks on the same plane, and these social connections are the life preservers we need in this stormy sea of Zoom. So even if you need to ask someone for a boost, take that leap and put yourself out there. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be the start of something great.

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