Endlesss Possibilties: How Students Can Meet During the Pandemic

Thursday, July 9, 2020

In between studying online, however, there is an opportunity for them to use social media apps such as Leepse to explore, meet new and likeminded people to share their ideas and creativity, as well as chat about their hopes and life experiences.

Gabriel Mulko, Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of social media community Leepse, explains that since campus lockdown, which began in March 2020 in many countries, everything that students used to do in the real world has moved more online than ever before. He finds that students are now spending up to 9 hours a day on their phones: “They have been using their phones and apps to replace every aspect of their lives, and even going to the gyms is being replaced by home training guided by fitness apps.”

Transforming lives

Social distancing has transformed students’ dating lives, too. With pubs, cafes, bars, nightclubs, cinemas and bars closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they’ve had to discover new ways to find their partners and to go dating.  He therefore says video dating has increased. Carolyn Harding, writes in her 21st May 2020 blog for Digital Media Solutions, ‘Dating Apps: The Latest Trends Digital Marketers Should Know’ that “dating has quickly and successfully transformed into a virtual industry.”

She adds: “94% of OkCupid users recently said they plan to continue dating virtually, while 70% of Hinge users are open to phone or video dates. But, while many match-making apps, like OkCupid and Hinge, have navigated their way through the challenges of social distancing, the need for continued innovation is imperative, as the habits and interests of dating app users have further evolved. Today, dating apps are discovering updated ways to operate and profit in these unique times.”

The same applies to just getting together. Finding new friends, meeting up with existing ones and chatting to family has also gone online – replaced by social media and video conferencing apps. Mulko believes that now is particularly a good time to expand your social circle by meeting new people. Social media can enable new friendships to blossom, student parties to continue virtually, and for communities with common interests to be created. It is an enabler, giving opportunities to people fulfil their needs and aspirations in way that he describes as being unprecedented.

He adds: “It has been a significant game-changer when it comes to relationships. We went from having a tight circle of friends that were “given” to us through our childhood and schools. Now, you can make friends and date people completely outside of your inner circle and find likeminded people.” By meeting new people it’s possible to, in his words, “spice up your life and live new experiences.” He observes that branching out to meet new friends permits them to fulfil specific needs, interests and ambitions, such as connecting with people who also like video games, baseball or soccer.

Endless possibilities

The possibilities and opportunities are endless. “Where the mind goes, social media goes.”, he says. Lockdowns are therefore an opportunity for people to express themselves and to socially network online while being socially distant. Being online isn’t just about clicking links; it can be about making new links with social media apps, too, and when the pandemic is over, online mates could become real-life offline friends, business partners, fellow campaigners for a cause, people to approach for advice or just likeminded acquaintances.

Mulko considers meeting new people as “a great way to open your mind – just like travelling and living abroad does.” New experiences, new friendships and new relationships, no matter their design or purpose, can build character and be life-changing. He emphasises that they’re an opportunity to gain wisdom and to learn about everything and anything: “The only way to grow is to meet new people; you will live amazing experiences, be exposed to different world views and opinions, and maybe you won’t want them to be part of your life forever.”

“Spending an evening with a bunch of strangers will make your life more interesting, too. Everyone at Leepse has lived abroad for most of their lives, and we strongly feel the need to make new experiences through meeting new people; So we aspire to be the place where you can quit your routine to make your life more thrilling.” Meeting new people can also enable even students to gain the support they need at any point in their school, college or university lives.

Supporting others

As article in the Nursing Times illustrates that the pandemic isn’t the end of the world. On 20th May 2020, Steve Ford wrote: ‘Student nurse sets up social media tool to help during Covid-19 lockdown’. Noting that the pandemic is having a significant impact on people’s health and wellbeing, mental health nursing degree student Sophie Rane decided to establish a social media page to enable people to reach out to others for assistance, or to help themselves by answering a survey that assesses their wellbeing.  She developed a traffic light system to indicate what level of help and support people need.

Ford explains: “A red result will lead to the offer of an email, message or call and some one-to-one support and advice on how to access to mental health services if needed. The Facebook page is titled HUDS Uni – it’s OK to not be OK and a team of students will be recruited to help with the responses, which the university noted marked a valuable opportunity for them.”

Matching people

Connecting people can also be achieved by using algorithms to match them against a range of criteria, including their interests. Matching people together can enable conversations and new opportunities for self-growth, widening horizons, health and wellbeing, etc. Mulko explains that everyone has “several aspects to our personalities, ever-changing tastes and our lifestyle changes drastically over time.”  Also, as individuals, sometimes it’s hard to know what we as humans like, want and really need.

He explains: “When it comes to socialising, we meet tonnes of people superficially, but during the short time we’re exposed to them, it’s impossible to know if they could be our friends, if we want to have deep discussions with them or partner to launch a business. It takes time and effort to get to know new people.” This factor often means that people don’t make the effort to get out there to expand their social bubbles, their social circles.

So, to address this, Leepse wants to match people together to create online communities of individuals that have an affinity with each other. This, he believes, is where social media apps can have real power by offering real social connectivity. It’s not quite dating, but it could lead to a date or something else. “Leepse saves you time by cutting out the small talk; we put you in a context where it’s easy to spot someone you want to hang out with, or not”, he says.

He also claims that his team wants to “revolutionise how meeting new people is perceived: it is not only for single people looking to date; it’s for everyone.” He concludes by exclaiming that he doesn’t know of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from meeting new people.

The expression that ‘no man is an island’ is true. To get ahead in life, everyone needs to explore meeting new people and going on new ventures – or even on new adventures. People need to meet people, and each of us can help each other – whether during a pandemic or in more ordinary times. Student life can also be a launching pad for prosperous life-long friendships, and for many other opportunities.

Mulko therefore believes it’s important to connect with people who inspire you, who care about you, and who want to help you to achieve your dreams no matter what they are.

He adds: “Leepse provides people with an invaluable tool: hanging out with people like themselves. We strongly believe that our lives have been improved when we’ve been surrounded by likeminded people and we want our Members to meet people who will help them achieve their goals: artists finding other artists to co-create or inspire each other, entrepreneurs looking for people going through the same path for support, people who like to play tennis and watch the US Open, and people who want to find fellow party animals.”

Users in control

However, he has seen social media platforms being used for an extremely diverse range of purposes. He explains why: “Social apps are most often built on user-generated content. Companies may make countless plans and steer the conversation as much as they want; but at the end of the day, the users are what makes a social media what it is. If they want to network, they will. If they want to voice their opinions, they will also do that. That’s where the beauty of social media lies; it’s in the hands of its users.”

Students can therefore use social media as a means of self-discovery, as a means of networking for a wide range of purposes, and during the pandemic it can enable them to continue the party or to their showcase creativity. Social media apps and platforms are therefore removing the boundaries that lockdowns across the globe have imposed upon students, and indeed upon everyone else. With online communities there are no walls, and even in isolation with technology’s help they can dissipate.

By Graham Jarvis, Freelance Business and Technology Journalist