Q: "I just moved to a new school and it's been really hard to make friends because of all the social distancing and mask wearing (which I know is necessary, but it's hard). What should I do?” -Anonymous
A: Hey girl! I’ve been getting many similar concerns about making friends in the age of covid and returning to school. I can’t even imagine starting a new school this way. One of my best friends started a brand new school this year and with the masks, 6 feet, and the random pods it’s been such a struggle trying to meet new people. Here are my tips for you:
The masks are not working in your favor. No one can tell if you’re smiling at them, eye contact seems creepy in a way, and identifying the same people each day is tricky. What you can control is your body language. If you’re uncomfortable or in an awkward silence moment at lunch or before a class starts DON'T put your head in your phone. All your chances of having anyone come up to you have vanished when you're buried in your phone. Look up, pull your shoulders back, and turn your body language towards the rest of the group. That’s just step one.
Affinity groups, sports, clubs
Your best chance of making friends during covid is 100% through a sport or club. Sign up for literally any extracurricular at school. It can be swim, soccer, lacrosse, dance, robotics, debate, choir, or any community service club. That's how you’re gonna meet people.
In your classes, you have to befriend at least one or two people. Do this by making fun of the teacher or asking a question about the homework. If there’s a big test coming up, suggest to one or two of your classmates about how it’d be fun to study together. Get their numbers and plan a facetime or invite them over.
I have to assume that you know at least one person at your school. You might be nervous to go up and talk to them and their new friends… understandable. It takes a lot of courage to approach a group but maybe ask your friend beforehand to meet up at lunch so it feels planned. Have your friend introduce you to one or two other people they know. Expanding your circle can be difficult but you don’t have to be besties with everyone you come by; just maximize your chances of getting to know some new people by putting yourself in positions to connect with friends of a friend.
When I started middle school, I was put on one of those annoyingly big group chats that blow up every 5 minutes. I see this with some of the new middle schoolers at my school trying to connect with each other over social media. I already know y’all are on tiktok or instagram. It’s not creepy to follow people who go to your school (they’ll probably have the school name in their bio) and get their snaps (btw if you’re not allowed to snap then read this post on a guide to convincing your parents). Start snapping some new people and ask ‘ ‘who are your teachers?’ or ‘are you doing any clubs?’. If you feel comfortable, suggest meeting up at lunch.
This is really simple but just compliment people all the time. Give off the same energy you want to get back. Tell the girl next to you in the lunch line that you like her shoes or that her mask is cool. BE SWEET AND KIND!
It might not seem this way to you but all the other kids at school are thinking exactly how you are and they are looking for a girl like you to reach out and be the friendly one who breaks the ice. It’s really hard and I know that. Wearing masks will all be over soon and you WILL find your people! I promise! Forming friendships takes time, especially when you’re in middle school and it’s covid. It’s not supposed to work out instantaneously.
(p.s. To anyone who has a new kid in their school this year: go out of your way to reach out to the new kid and be extra extra welcoming. I was nervous that she would that I was strange but I recently snapchatted one of the new girls at my school and invited her to have to lunch with me and my friends! Do small things like checking in on them to make sure they feel safe at school.)
We got this,