Pepperdine students gather in Mullin Town Square at sunset for dinner and a Starbucks break. Some students faced social anxiety when coming back to school this fall. Photo by Gabrielle Salgado
Pepperdine students’ main cause of stress is not academics, but how to start a conversation and make friends, students said.
After a year and a half of online learning and virtual activities, students relearn the social skills they lost during the beginning of the pandemic. The loss of social skills has many students battling social anxiety as well.
“The biggest concern for me was connecting with people and being able to make friends,” first-year Carlos Mejia said. “I wasn’t even really worried about academics but just meeting new people and making those new connections.”
Online Versus In-Person
Mejia is not the only Pepperdine student who felt anxious about socializing once returning to in-person learning.
Many students faced Zoom fatigue when schools turned to online learning in March 2020. Zoom fatigue is the exhaustion people experience due to the excessive use of video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts, Julia Sklar wrote in an April 2020 National Geographic article.
However, Zoom fatigue has become in-person fatigue.
Students interact with people without the new perceived benefits of video conferences, said Connie Horton, vice president of Student Affairs. From the comfort of their own home, students could turn off their camera or microphone to take a break from socializing. Now, students must be alert and constantly on the move.
“Zoom was a little less pressure socially because everyone was just in the same boat,” sophomore Lidia Qaladh said. “But here there’s a certain pressure to find your people but that’s not always easy to do.”
Students are now hyperalert that people are around and can see what they are doing, causing heightened anxiety, Horton said.
“I think especially the first couple of days I remember I was just exhausted by the end of it,” Mejia said. “Both emotionally and socially.”
Social Anxiety in Students Returning to Campus
Returning to campus created new pressure to be social for many students, and students of all years face some sense of social anxiety, said Horton.
The lack of interaction during the majority of the pandemic links to the increase in social anxiety in students — they said they are having to relearn social skills and become comfortable interacting with others.
Graphic by Gabrielle Salgado
“A lot of people are feeling social anxiety,” Qaladh said. “A lot of people are feeling overwhelmed by constantly being around people.”
Introverted students are having even more difficulty in social settings. Both Mejia and Qaladh identify as introverts and have become more introverted since the pandemic, they said.
“It’s been difficult to just …….