Students turn to online messaging platforms for socialization

By: Stephen Bennett

With COVID-19 lockdowns and remote learning leaving few opportunities to talk outside of class, many students have turned to Discord group chats for communication in the absence of face-to-face socialization.

Second-year Graphic Design students at Red River College Polytechnic created a Discord group chat to share information and talk with one another. The chat is named after The Roblin Centre floor number they would normally study on: “The Sixth Floor.” According to some students, it helps them connect with their peers.

“The group is very useful in communicating with other students, but it does not compare to the in-person college experience,” said Sean Ferstl, a member of the group chat.

As explained in its 2015 release, Discord was originally intended for video game chats. It has since become a valuable student communication resource. The chat program is available on computers and smartphones and allows users to join multiple channels, participate in voice chats, and share files.

“We are missing all the socialization and connection that in-person classes provide,” said Ferstl. “The graphic design industry in Winnipeg is small, so being able to know other students on a personal level and form connections is important.”

Creative Communications student Sydney Gauthier checks a group chat on her phone at Red River College Polytechnic Roblin Centre Campus on Dec. 1./STEPHEN BENNETT

For some students, Discord has filled the socialization void left by remote learning.

“(Remote learning) hasn’t been too bad. I’m kind of an introverted person normally, so I’m not one to go up and talk to strangers, but it’s a lot easier to just type a message into Discord,” said Eric Stevenson, a second-year Business Information Technology (BIT) student. “I’ve made a bunch of new friends just by posting messages and being helpful where I can.”

Stevenson is a member of the BIT Discord, a server made up of over 100 members. The server is the volunteer effort of students that want an easier way to communicate between sections. Due to the added technological expertise of the students, the BIT server has the added function of filtering visibility between sections and sending out notifications to members.

Although RRC Polytech has no official policy for student communication, some instructors discourage reliance on group chats.

Kelly Stifora, the Creative Communications coordinator at RRC Polytech, cautioned students about what they share online, especially school work.

“If fellow students are asking to see examples of work or something they’ve done, my advice would be to think twice,” said Stifora.

“There’s a very fine line between that student looking at work posted, using it on an anecdotal basis as an example of what they should do, or perhaps, even without fully intending to, plagiarizing the work.”