Following Vanier College’s closure until May 1st, as mandated by the provincial government amid the COVID-19 pandemic, students adopting social distancing measures are coming to terms with a new reality; that is to say, one of online classes, Netflix marathons, and disrupted sleep schedules.
Despite the necessary social distancing and self-isolation, there has been a movement to rebrand these terms so as to remind people that, thanks to the internet, it is possible to remain connected (pun intended) with their loved ones.
In this regard, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove of the World Health Organization commented that, though “we say social distancing, we’re changing [the term] to say physical distance, and that’s on purpose because we want people to still remain connected.”
On-campus initiatives clearly took on this position as well, since they are utilizing social media to keep students engaged in a collective virtual space. For instance, members of VTV are posting regular birthday shoutouts on their Instagram stories to promote celebration despite the fact that social gatherings are currently disbanded. They are also posting daily, counting the days of our “quarantine,” as they keep students updated on the current situation, remind them to engage in self-care, and host mini-contests in their comment section.
Similarly, Vanier Student Life has been taking advantage of their social media presence by organizing several Kahoot! games, wherein the winner is awarded Vanier merch, as well as mini challenges, where people can engage with each other via the comment section of their Instagram posts; they have also re-established their Adulting 101 workshops online!
On April 1st, VTV and Vanier Student Life even joined forces in a grand April Fools prank where Nicolas Cage was presented as a Vanier alumnus and one of “50 Faces of Vanier” through Instagram posts on both of their accounts. Though students quickly caught on to the fact that these posts were part of an elaborate prank, Nicolas Cage memes continued to fill their feeds, as Vanier Student Life temporarily converted their Instagram account into a Nicolas Cage fanpage. Vanier Sustainability also took part in the prank, declaring that, in honour of “Forest Appreciation Day”, Nicolas Cage was a “forest ambassador” who “advocates for forest bathing.”
Moreover, aside from these entertaining ways of incentivizing student engagement via social media, Vanier Sustainability also posts reminders for people to ensure that they take time to unplug and recharge by engaging with nature; this includes taking walks, gardening, and even some sustainable DIY projects.
Ultimately, we are living in unprecedented times and adapting accordingly is difficult. However, as these now-online college initiatives show us, it is important to remain in touch with others, as well as with ourselves, so as to ensure overall health and happiness despite current events.
By Mel Spiridigliozzi