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Facial Feedback: How to Make Meaningful Connections with Peers

Optimism was high when it came to staying connected during what we assumed would be a short shut down. Facetime, Zoom, and all the other technology we had surely made it easy to not skip a beat when it comes to communication, right? Well, now six months into the pandemic, Zoom calls can be exhausting, not being able to read lips through masks can be frustrating, and finding the energy to pick up a phone to Facetime after a full day of staring at a computer is getting harder and harder.

Despite the ability to stay connected, facial feedback is lost on many occasions. On video calls or with masks, it is harder to read a person’s facial expressions. Despite these challenges, there are still ways to stay connected and safe amidst Covid-19.

1. Make a conscious effort to smile every once in a while.

It sounds odd, but not only do facial expressions communicate emotions they also send the message to our own bodies about our emotions. Smiling, even if you are not happy, can tell your body you are and boost your mood. Especially when we are not going as many places, not waving to people we see while crossing campus, and watching pre-recorded lectures in which we do not need to respond, smiling has become less of a necessity. This article explains Facial Feedback Hypothesis in a little more depth. So, as cheesy as it sounds, I encourage you to smile a little more!

2. Have a unique Zoom background.

Whether it’s for class, an interview, or just a virtual hangout, your Zoom background can say a lot about you. The image can be a digital setting or just your physical background, but take time to make it specific to you and the occasion. For formal meetings, keep it simple and professional but do not be afraid to add something that interests you in the background. For example, if you have a guitar you like to play, put it in the background somewhere. Names and faces can easily get switched up, but by having something in frame specific to you can make you more memorable. The same idea applies to casual calls, except there is a little more freedom to mess around. Especially when meeting with friends over Zoom, throw out an idea such as asking everyone to change their background to their favorite place or book.

3. Reach out to people in your classes or clubs.

Miss making new friends? Well, it is still possible even if connecting with new people looks a little different. Notice someone in your class who answers a lot of questions? Ask to study with them! Recognize someone you might know from home but are not quite sure? Reach out! Think someone in your class might be interested in an organization you are a part of? Ask them! Most people are happy to make more connections, especially during this time. New faces can help relieve the feeling of being stuck in routine or limited by pandemic regulations.

4. Mix up the digital calls with face to face (or rather, mask to mask) interaction.

While masks prohibit us from seeing all of someone’s face, in person there isn’t the same lag there might be on Zoom or Facetime. Especially while the weather is nice, take advantage of what is available to do outside with people. Grabbing coffee and sitting outside, going for a walk, or having a picnic are all things you can safely do without a screen. If you have a designated pod, consider setting time aside to hang out with someone in your pod.

5. Send follow up messages to professors, potential employers, or even new friends!

For most people, 2020 has brought a multitude of unexpected challenges including increased feelings of loneliness and isolation. Now more than ever, a good message can make a person’s day and help them feel seen. For example, say a professor helped you out a good bit in office hours. Send them an email saying thanks. I know my professors lament all the questions they get in emails, so one expressing gratitude instead of asking for something may be a welcome gesture.

It is a tough time for a job search and I commend everyone currently searching for jobs and internships. Follow up messages after interviews or networking events have always been highly encouraged, but similar to going out of your way to email a professor, a message that is a little more polite or thankful than it needs to be can go a long way.

6. Take virtual opportunities that wouldn’t be possible otherwise

One benefit of the pandemic is that events that would usually happen all around the country are becoming accessible online. Have a conference or event you would love to go to but have never been able to travel to? See if it’s online! Even if you do not have something in mind, search around and see if there is something related to your interests or major. The event does not have to be educational either, virtual concerts, stand up shows, and more are also out there!

This semester looks different, but it does not need to be lonely or void of opportunities. As much as we are looking for new ways to connect to each other, organizations and companies are doing their best to create them. Not to mention, CWIB is a great place to start when it comes to meeting other great women in business!

By: Grace Farmelo

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