In Search of Lost (Insti) Time

Edited by L Calvin

Design by Siri Chandana

How did the freshies deal with building their social lives online, you ask?

Picture this: you are an 18-year old so-called adult ready to step into the “real world”, as school teachers called it. Meeting new people from different parts of the country and spending a major phase of your life with them, tackling all the problems you face with them by your side in a completely new city. Oh wait! There is no city.

WhatsApp and Discord and Instagram and Signal and Google Meet and Zoom are all there is. It’s an online freshie year – a “Thank God” outcome for introverts and an “Oh NO!” situation for extroverts and probably ambiverts.

Socializing isn’t a piece of cake for everyone. But for an introvert who rehearses conversations in their mind before speaking, not having to actually meet new people is bliss. Just text a “hi”, let your batchmates know that you exist and then stay comfortable in your own little spaces. Interaction with anyone is completely optional. All you have to do is find a friend or two with the same vibe as yours and talk to them, attend classes and submit assignments. Introverts found the online freshie year to be an offer of all things nice, with a little bit of anguish of not being able to spend time reading surrounded by the wildlife in insti.

Stepping into the other side’s shoes – the “Oh NO” situation – the extroverts and most of the ambiverts were devastated, and decided to march forward with the air of optimism (…which would diminish down the lane). They began searching for all the possible ways of interacting so that they did not miss a year of fun. The first month was filled with loads of WhatsApp groups ranging from batch groups, club groups and even (surprisingly?) study groups which eventually turned into groups where everything apart from academics was discussed; uttering the word “study” was banned according to the fundamental group rules. Then came weekly video calls, until the discovery of Discord. There were department servers, batch servers, secret servers for just 4-5 friends where time was spent cribbing about all the assignments we had to do and then deciding to go on procrastination mode, listening to music with the help of bots. Rhythm and Groovy added music to our lives with the perennial fight over who decides on the next song.

As the reality of the possibility of “When can we go back to actual socializing” becoming an “If …” struck, the importance of replicating offline interactions became paramount.

Movie nights were scheduled and sharing meeting links became the virtual equivalent of knocking on your friend’s door with popcorn. Topics of conversation nearly always revolved around how our life at insti would have been, cooking up imaginary hostel scenarios and making a list of all the things we’d do when we actually get there.

If asked to explain the whole online socializing situation in a word, “defamiliarization” would be an apt descriptor.

The fundamental nature of even the most familiar things changed.

WhatsApp was no longer just a messaging app, it was where our college life dwelled. Google Meet or Zoom or Webex weren’t just platforms to conduct formal meetings. They were our classrooms and grounds for getting to know each other. Even the meanings of emojis have changed dramatically, with many of them being directly linked to the heartbreaking pandemic and online situation we find ourselves in. For instance, the emoji with an unreadable smile has become really popular these days, summing up our feelings as we experience scenarios that we never imagined would take place in our lives.

“Ohhh… you haven’t seen your 600 acre campus yet right? It’s damn sad.” A special round of applause to all those (including me) who did not let this statement with a hint of mockery (magnified ×1000 in a freshie’s mind) get them. Yes, we haven’t seen our campus, but did we not recreate a 600 acre campus from our homes, complete with the full range of experiences that could ever happen in real life (at least as of now) –  friends, fun, not to mention the movie nights.

Undoubtedly, we were frustrated with the world turning upside down right in front of us, with our college dreams shattering into a million pieces. Yet, we are in it together – no matter what. Joking about our struggles may not be a healthy practice, but it definitely alleviates our misery. Maybe that is what keeps us going – the realization that this is not something happening to a single person, but a whole group of “adults” who were waiting to exercise their freedom to the fullest at insti.

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