First year students use Snapchat as a creative way to socialize despite remote learning

Freshman and class of 2024 student senator Karen Ghaddar creates Snapchat group story to give students a chance to communicate during COVID-19

McKenna+Premus

McKenna Premus

By  Jack Underhill, Collegian Contributor

Snapchat is a popular messaging app, especially among youth, that allows people to text and send pictures and videos to anyone that they “add” on the platform. Karen Ghaddar, a freshman at the University of Massachusetts majoring in public health and health sciences, utilized the option to create a “group story” where anyone that she adds can take pictures or videos to post.

Over around two months, Ghaddar has added close to 850 people to the group and many more students still want to join. Ghaddar is a student learning remotely who wanted to find new ways to meet people while living in a different country.

“I just posted on the Facebook group because I wanted to meet so many people, and my plan was doing that on campus, especially because I was going to fly from Dubai to America, so I just wanted to meet so many new people,” said Ghaddar.

“I just posted in the Facebook group saying I am thinking of making a Snapchat group because I know everyone uses Snapchat and it is an easier way to communicate with everyone,” she said.

Ghaddar, a senator for the class of 2024, used the app as a means of bringing a sense of community to UMass freshman since most are learning remotely from home. Those added to the group story are able to post pictures or videos that other freshmen can view and interact with. Students are able to ask questions, share funny videos or express their opinions while viewers have the opportunity to respond and interact.

When asked about her motivation in creating this group story, Ghaddar said, “My aim in making the group story is for everyone to communicate with each other and to be able to meet new people despite us not being on campus.”

While the senate elections were underway, students utilized the platform to express their interest in becoming senators. The first presidential debate was also a topic of conversation among freshmen and many shared their own opinions on politics. Students have even shared their music interests and compared their preferences with others.

“Recently, we all just started sharing our music tastes so we were able to make a big class of 2024 playlist and there are around 10,000 songs on there,” said Ghaddar.

The pandemic has created challenges for freshmen to be able to socialize with peers and get accustomed to college classes. Amid remote learning, the group story allows for a creative and safe way for students to socialize while remaining socially distant.

“I think it’s been a great way to connect with people,” said Prachi Patel, a freshman psychology major. “Because of COVID it’s been really hard, and we’ve lost the face-to-face interaction with people. So I really think the story has brought people together on one platform to express opinions and learn about different clubs or be part of something.”

Remote learning has made it tough for freshmen to talk with classmates outside of class and create study groups. However, many use the group story to find other peers in their classes and to ask for help on challenging subjects. The group story allows for an easy way to connect with others who bear the same interests and classes.

“I met a few others with the same major,” said Dev Ahuja, a freshman international student majoring in computer engineering. “That has helped me with some homework questions and stuff regarding the subject as well. So it has been pretty beneficial.”

Although the threat of COVID-19 will eventually pass, Ghaddar still recommends that incoming freshmen in the future take initiative and create opportunities for their peers to socialize before they are allowed on campus to create a smooth transition into college life.

“It’s been so easy to make friends there. It doesn’t even matter if we are online or not, people should definitely make a group story,” Ghaddar said. “It’s so informal and everyone feels comfortable.”

The group story offers an informal method of chatting with many classmates at once while allowing for students to connect academically, as well. People have made study groups, expressed their opinions and helped to notify others about updates regarding returning to campus in Spring 2021.

Despite remote learning and lack of human interaction, the members of the class 2024 have come up with creative ways to remain social and still get a feel for life in college.

 Jack Underhill can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JackUnderhill16.