LPH Members Reflect on Communication and Community in the Age of Coronavirus

Throughout the months of March and April, members of Manhattan College’s chapter of Lambda Pi Eta, the national communication honor society, wrote reflections about communication and their lives in the age of the current coronavirus pandemic. Their thoughts range the full spectrum of emotions and consider a number of different aspects of technology, communication, and community. Each member comes to the reflection with a different idea: read more poetry, rise to the challenge, reach out to loved ones, be a helper, appreciate a helper, live day to day, hope people stay this empathetic. Below are some of the many reflections these members wrote. These reflections do not speak for the group, but present a wide variety of ideas that these bright individuals want to share.

Admir Djesevic, LPH Member 

When growing up and hearing about my parents migrating or living through epidemics, wars and recessions, I never actually pictured chaos. I always envisioned that they were strong and complete in groups, helping others close and far in little ways. Stories of harder times don’t necessarily prepare you for the real deal, they just merely give you personal glimpses of human struggle and perseverance. This coronavirus pandemic is not only writing a new story for us all to tell in months or years to come, but it’s changing how we view the world when it becomes fragile and distant.

Communication is key during any event, but with resources and lives at stake, proper messages must be delivered. I’ve noticed the different narratives media giants have portrayed and it only gives me some awkward but enlightening flashbacks to my intro [communication] classes. I think back to when several Comm faculty reiterated in their classes that “there will come a time when you are presented with an ethical dilemma in your workplace or life… how you react will make or break your career.” This quote could not be more applicable to our lives presently in this pandemic. Communities facing problems of unemployment, resource depletion, infection or all of the above need proper messages delivered to them now more than ever. I tend to blame capitalism right away because my parents grew up with socialism in Yugoslavia and those ideologies were socialized into me. They’ve long adapted to U.S. capitalism, but they never stop talking about the days universities and healthcare were free. It’s not a direct solution, but had the U.S. adopted socialist principles, a lot more people could have been properly cared for. The response the U.S. government has taken to potentially lockdown and economically provide for those in need is a great step in the right direction, but it also makes you wonder, how much earlier could they have invested money into these things? Nevertheless, it makes me somewhat optimistic, as it brings the needs of the many into perspective and not just the some.

The final point I want to reflect on is the power of social media during this time. As we continue to actively participate in social media, I hope we are using the various platforms we have to spread love and not hate or fear. Helping uplift someone and sharing positive data or information is a step toward bridging communities near and far. Let’s use the right terms to describe the situations. Let’s ensure we do the little things like staying at home and social distancing to help our communities and the people in them. It only takes one domino to fall and I hope we don’t all play down the risks associated with disobeying health officials and organizations. I wish nothing but positivity and safety for everyone out there as we all try to heal the wounds caused by this virus.

Alexa Schmidt, The Quadrangle’s Managing/Arts and Entertainment Editor & an LPH member

Now, more than ever, can we truly recognize the importance of human connection. At school, it can be incredibly easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of things to accomplish in the span of a single day. You’re rushing from place to place, and everyday interactions with people can feel tiring. Classes blur together, as do the mundane things, like eating morning breakfasts with your teammates and catching up with your friends at dinner.

I don’t think any of us expected to have to social distance and isolate ourselves for this extended amount of time. Moving to online classes, meetings, and connecting with family and friends was in no means, a smooth transition. I definitely did not expect this challenge to come my way. The prospect of online learning was difficult to swallow, not only for me, but for the high school seniors who have looked forward to graduation and prom, and for the seniors who are graduating college in order to move on and make that official transition into adulthood. The internships canceled, the jobs withdrawn, and the moments of happiness that will now be postponed, are all affecting everyone.

However, the professors, coaches, administration and students leaders at Manhattan College are all to be commended for organizing ways to connect with each other. Communities are found all over campus, but moving online did not take those communities away. I am proud to be a part of The Quadrangle, the newspaper that continued to publish articles and feature those who made the most out of these circumstances. We just hosted our end of year award ceremony and senior send off. A bittersweet moment, but nonetheless enjoyed by members located from coast to coast. It is moments like these that we have to hold onto, and remember the strength, resilience and tenacity that goes into being a human.

Ali Magnani, LPH Member 

Emily Dickinson once wrote, “In this short Life that only lasts an hour / How much – how little – is within our power.” Given the present circumstances, communication and community are now more important than ever. Reaching out to family and friends and caring for those around us is essential to remaining resilient and strong as a society during these difficult times. Emily Dickinson’s poem “In this short Life that only lasts an hour” resonates with the present circumstances because the poem emphasizes how our ability to remain positive is more powerful than our disability to control what we simply cannot. 

I particularly find Dickinson’s poem comforting because the poem reassures me that I have the ability to remain positive during these difficult times. Although I may not be able to control what is occurring around me, I can control how I respond to the present circumstances, and that in itself is powerful. Personally, I believe that poetry, along with being insightful, is also healing. To my fellow Jaspers who are struggling during these difficult times, I encourage you to either visit Poetry Foundation or pick up a Norton Anthology and read poems by the likes of Emily Dickinson or William Wordsworth, among others. In the reading and sharing of poetry, there is solace and hope, and the reminder that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

More than anything, the present circumstances have taught me that I am stronger than I think and that there is more good than bad in the world. Everywhere you look there is a helping hand and a smile to remind you that this too shall pass. While life as we know it may change to accommodate the present circumstances, the spirit of our Manhattan College community will remain unaltered and unparalleled. Communication and community are shining brighter than ever, and I am grateful for each and every Jasper’s effort to uplift our community. I am inspired by the outpouring of love and support, and I hope I too can make a difference in the lives of fellow Jaspers by sharing my thoughts on the present circumstances.

Brittany O’Malley, 2019-20 President of Lambda Pi Eta 

Every day social distancing brings a new experience in the world of media. Isolation and connection are juxtaposed through digital interaction. We catch up with friends and family online while we remain in our own houses streaming shows and movies on our TVs in the background. The idea of media as a distraction is starting to turn into media as a dependence. Our dependence on media has escalated to the point of necessity. I initially wondered how humanity survived a pandemic before the digital age, but quickly realized that much remains the same despite the difference in time. Media has always been a source of distraction. Books, magazines and stories have always consumed people’s thoughts in times of distress and have always acted as a distraction from the world around them, an ultimate escape from reality. Human reaction hasn’t changed much throughout the years, which is reassuring to our uncertain nature. We will all be alright. For now, we have to come together through media so that our future can be better off. This isn’t the first, or the last, human experience where the media is an essential distraction, a human dependent. Together, we can depend on our personal escapes through different mediums in order to secure our future and take this opportunity to be still.

Cristian Forletta, LPH Member 

Living in such a strange time, one that will be written about in history books, one that brings such uncertainty with each passing day, is undoubtedly something the world never saw coming, let alone the Manhattan College community. We have experienced so much loss these past couple of weeks that it has become almost impossible to keep track of it all: loss of jobs, loss of human contact, loss of commencement ceremonies, and even loss of loved ones whom we never thought could be affected by such a horrible illness. No one has been exempt from being affected by the state in which we currently live. This virus supersedes sex, race, religion, political party, geographical location, and any other factor that has ever gotten in the way of reaching a united global community. While I don’t propose to have the solution to achieve world peace or end world hunger, I do propose that we are being given an opportunity to build from the ground up this united global community, which starts at a small scale, building to engulf the entire world.

We are resilient beings, and have adapted our methods of communicating with each other to a varying degree of success, but now more than ever it is vital to look out for one another. Reach out to those you love while you can. Make a phone call, send a text, write a letter, reach out to your neighbor, maintain and build the relationships you have while creating new ones via social media. Become more creative than you have ever been. Send a message through art. Simply put, make your presence known to those around you, share what you have to offer, and spread positivity to any and everyone you may come across, whether that be physically or virtually. While there isn’t any one certain way to overcome all of the obstacles that have been thrown our way, there is a way to help each other through it all.

It is important to remember the difference between being bruised and being broken. We are all experiencing today’s world in different ways, and from personal experience during this time, I know it’s easy to feel helpless, lost, and defeated. “… things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases you realize that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to comestate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully” – Hanya Yanagihara (A Little Life, 2015).

Deirdre Ledley, LPH Member 

As I sit and write this, I remember my time at Manhattan College. I knew why I chose such a small school in the first place and that’s because I’ve always been to Catholic school with small classes. Plus, I knew I wanted to move to the Bronx eventually and start my adult life there. But what I really got over four years, was a community and a sense of home. And not just in my communication department, but all over Riverdale. Freshman year, I hated school but now as I mourn over the loss of my last three months of my college career, I soak in all the love and happiness I made because of the communication I was able to facilitate over my years. I got to talk and befriend residents of Riverdale, deli guys, professors, families, loved ones, etc. that have just made my exit from college that more meaningful. For this Manhattan, I am eternally grateful.

Like Doctor Plugh said, social distancing is selfless and an act of love for ourselves and those around us. Although it is extremely isolating and hard to cope with, we have to remember we are doing this for our community. We stay apart so the elderly don’t get sick or that new babies entering this world have a chance to grow in a healthy environment. We are distancing quite literally to save our community. And how grand is it to know when we see each other next, we will appreciate it that much more?

When qurantine started I was more than depressed and cried myself to sleep every night. It is hard to remain positive in such a weird time that we’re in. But what gets me through the days now a month into lockdown, is that the next time I see my grandparents, the hug will literally bring light back into them. Or the next time I see my friends I made these four years, it’ll truly be a celebration. Remind those who need it most that love is not cancelled and better days are ahead. A sincere hug from someone is right around the corner. A cold, cheeky pint with the lads is just in your reach. Every day that ends is just a closer day to freedom. Our communities just need some TLC, including MC, and they’ll be back to new in no time. So in the meantime, sleep a lot, hug your parents tight, call old friends and remember to tell the ones you love, you love them. And tell them often. We will be together someday so soon.

Gabriella DePinho, The Quadrangle’s Editor-in-Chief & LPH Member 

When Manhattan College announced that classes would be online until at least March 29, I called my mom to talk about when I would get picked up; when I hung up with her, the immediate next thing I did was email Nick Gilewicz, The Quadrangle’s advisor, and asked him in simple terms “What now?” Nick and I spoke on the phone for a half hour, making a roadmap for a few weeks, which has turned out to be our roadmap for the rest of the semester. I will admit that when classes were moved online for the rest of the semester, I was devastated. I felt like I was being robbed of time with professors I love, putting a print product out and other things I was so excited for.

In writing a letter from the editor that was posted online, I wrote “To be filled with such great grief means we have been filled with such great love,” and I stand by that belief. The whole world is mourning: mourning loved ones who have passed, funerals that could not be held, birthdays that could not be celebrated, weddings that have been postponed, births of newborns that could not be family affairs, canceled graduations, events that people were looking forward to with joy. Anything you can think of that you are sad to be missing out on – going to grab a coffee, sitting in a classroom, going to a concert, taking the subway – are all community-oriented and love-filled moments of existence. Everything we do in the presence or company of other people is a moment of community. Though we’ve been isolated to our homes, where we may have people we love, we have been robbed of experiencing our communities – the fleeting and the cultivated ones. Though we have incredible communication technology, video chats, text messages, and DMs cannot replicate the true spontaneity of in-person human interaction.

As a communication student, I so often think about the minefields that are social media, digital data collection and large media corporations creating an oligopoly: things that genuinely trouble me. I am not forgetting problematic aspects of the Internet, technology and content ownership but it is hard to not binge-watch Netflix or Disney movies and take “personality” quizzes that tell me what kind of bread I am (but are probably collecting data on me) as I cope with this pandemic. I’ve learned it’s okay to not stay focused on issues of media diversification and digital privacy right now as I am trying to stay afloat right now; heck, I was never going to solve those issues on my own. It is okay if the best thing I can do each day is survive my own anxiety. Right now, I am choosing to focus on the fact that the Internet and technology, as problematic as they can be, are allowing for love to transcend time and space and I am quite grateful for that.

Garrett Keidel, The Quadrangle’s Social Media Editor & LPH Member 

I have been reflecting on the ways COVID-19 has affected my life for the last month and a half. I have been away from my newfound home in New York City for the longest amount of time since moving into college as a freshman. 

The very first way I have seen my life change is in my own motivation. While I am at home in Maryland, I have far less personal motivation in my academic life compared to when I was on campus at Manhattan College.  

As a senior by credit student, I am used to the added pressure of being on an accelerated course. This pandemic has created a scenario in which I feel removed from my academic support system; and a lack of physical connectedness to my thesis project. 

This is combined with my capstone Public Relations course, advanced public relations. This semester has proven quite difficult in several spheres. 

I think what this semester has taught me is the power of digital communication. To me, it’s incredible that while I am going through a rough time, my responsibilities can still be taken care of.

Currently I am doing an interview based senior seminar project. Because I am not in the city of the center of my focus, it has definitely made it more difficult. 

Overall, I am greatly disappointed by the semester. I felt that this was my semester to add to the knowledge of the world and I have been relegated to household work. 

What I wish this semester would have been is this,…normal. I wanted anything other than this. Not only has my college life been put at hold, but my professional life as well. 

I am grateful for my life and my situation. But it is definitely not ideal. 

Lauren Schuster, Senior Writer for The Quadrangle & LPH Secretary 

In wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become evident that both communication and community are more important than ever. Communication is what we have left, thanks to our various forms of technology. Physical community is what we have lost, for the time being. There is no denying that online classes over video chat are not the same as sitting in a classroom with your peers or that video chatting with your friends is not the same as sitting in a cafe with them. The sense of community we all feel on the Manhattan College campus is a special one. There is a reason why each of us chose a physical school and not an online one, and there is a reason why each of us chose Manhattan College specifically. The ability to experience the rewards that come with that choice has been taken away from us, if only for a short period. But this does not mean that it has not served us well, and it certainly does not mean that we have not kept our spirit alive. Even through something as simple as tagging our friends in a bingo card on Instagram, marking off our campus experiences, we are saying “we are here, we remember, and we promise we won’t forget.” It communicates our love for our community, even if we are separated from them. And while, especially as a senior in my final semester, I know that things will never be the same because of the pandemic, I also know that my community has served me so incredibly well and I will never forget them. While we alllong to reunite with our community eventually, we must communicate with them in every way possible. At the end of the day, what we should all be extremely grateful for in all of this is the many different ways we have available to communicate to each other, and the fact that Manhattan has given us a community so wonderful that we miss them this much when we are apart. 

Madison Smith, LPH Member  

It’s astonishing to think how much our world has changed in a matter of weeks. Just a few short days ago, I was on campus, doing homework, preparing for my classes as usual, and planning out my week ahead. Today I sit in my living room, confined to my house for an unknown period of time due to a scary new disease and its dangerously rapid spread. I’m not ashamed to express my fear, anxiety, and stress during this unpredictable time; I’m upset about my school year being cut short and the fact that multiple opportunities and events were taken away from me and many others. I’ve struggled to see the silver lining in this whole situation, and I’ve wondered what the greater lesson could be.

Waking up this past Saturday morning, I felt something I hadn’t felt in quite some time: a sense of calm. The week before had been nothing short of difficult: it was spring break, and my plans, just like many others, were cancelled; we were told we would not be returning to campus this year; and my internship, which I loved, was cut short. It seemed as if I would never hear good news again, as cancelation after cancelation was announced. Being a highly productive and busy individual, it seemed as if the current state of our world is not on my side. And that’s when it truly started to hit me: I’m not alone in this.

Something unique about this whole situation is that it affects all of us in some way, shape, or form, and there’s many individuals who have it much worse than me. What about our college seniors, who spent four years working towards a goal that they may not even be able to celebrate? What about those who are elderly or immunocompromised, who fear for their lives every time they step outside? What about those who don’t have a safe space to shelter-in-place in, and who may be at higher risk in their own homes as opposed to being in public?

And then I remembered the digital age we’re all currently living in. An upside? We still have the ability to communicate instantly with each other, no matter how many miles apart we may be. I have a group chat with a bunch of my extended family members, and I’ve been talking to them everyday regularly, which we never did before. I make sure to check in on all my friends from both school and home, which was something that, on a normal day, would slip my mind.

On top of that, I’ve been able to spend more time just being. On a typical day, I’m jumping from thing to thing, running across campus, and hardly getting a second to sit down and actually think about what’s going on around me. I’ve been able to take the time to reflect and relax in ways that I previously did not have the time for, which I consider myself lucky to be able to do. I’ve observed such beautiful acts of solidarity among my communities, and I’ve been able to find commonalities with people I previously was not close to. I believe this trying time is meant to be a learning moment for us all; to listen, reflect, and recognize that above all else, we’re connected as fellow human beings. Currently, our days may be dark and stormy, but, good news: there’s a sunny day waiting for us ahead.

Megan Dreher, Senior Writer for The Quadrangle, & LPH Member 

As I sit here in my home in Connecticut, I can’t help but think of the million other places I’d rather be. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending quality time with loved ones in quarantine. But at the end of the day, this is not how senior year was supposed to end. I anticipated finishing out my dance career, my Quadrangle career, my academic career much differently. Of course, I understand that these are all necessary precautions to make considering the circumstances that we are facing day in and day out. But, I can’t help but imagine what could have been…what should have been.

So as I sit here, coping with a loss in a way that feels all too similar to that of grief, I also can’t help but wonder what life will be upon re-entry to “normal” civilization. I quote “normal” because in my thinking, I’ve concluded that we will never go back to the ways of before. Things will have changed permanently, whether that means more technological forms of communication, the stressed importance of mindfulness and the good that isolation can do for a person to recharge, or just kinder, more altruistic people in this world. The beauty of isolation and separation is that as lonely as life can feel, the yearning for connection has never been stronger. I’m talking to people I haven’t reached out to in a while because I have no excuses now. I’m listening more…to the problems in our society, to the beautiful, hopeful solutions being offered. I’m feeling a lot more, finding grace and gratitude in each moment that we are healthy, happy, and alive.

So as difficult as our situation is, we can find the communal good. For starters, we are learning more about the interconnectivity of humans. Think about it, this virus has spread worldwide. People are dying because of human exposure. As heartbreaking as this fact is, it is also eye opening. WE are all connected to each other. But because of this, we also have to express our common concern for all persons. It is our duty to care for those in need, putting differences aside for love of thy neighbor. Community heals. It extends far beyond what we ever imagined and it carries us in times when we feel so very alone.

Technology has proven to help us cope. I can’t tell you how thankful I am to see friends, professors, classmates, and family on my screen as often as I do. It has helped us all expand our definition of community. It has given us the opportunity to reach out and share special moments that should never be missed. It has helped us maintain some sense of normalcy…and sanity.

But what I miss the most is interpersonal, often unspoken communication within our communities. A supportive hug, the warm eyes of pride, the radiating joy of a smile. My hope is that when we can all come back together, it is these forms of communication that are cherished all the more, because as wonderful as technology is, passion gets lost in electronic translation.

Rose Brennan, Senior Writer for The Quadrangle & LPH Member 

From the grand scheme of things, our society has never been more connected. We not only have telephones, but texting, video messaging and chatting, and countless other ways to “connect” with each other. But even though we have all of these media at our disposal, it is nevertheless difficult to truly “connect” with people, especially in unprecedented times like this.

Sure, I can FaceTime my friends at any time, but it just isn’t the same as sitting across the table from them, and being able to hug and kiss them hello and good-bye. Plus, I don’t have to worry about a poor Internet connection in that circumstance. But truthfully, all of us are doing the best we can, and luckily, we can find at least some way to make something good out of it all. And I am finding that in much smaller things lately.

I have someone in my family who is immunocompromised, so I’ve essentially been inside for the past 45 days. This has led to an experience which is isolating and seemingly hopeless. But being cooped up inside all day makes me consider the smallest things as uplifting and positive. On the occasion I do go outside and see another living soul, albeit also with a face mask, we wave to each other, as if to say “Nice to see you and I hope you and your family are okay.” We’ve had countless people offer to do our grocery shopping for us, because we can’t do it ourselves. We’re finding new ways to have fun with our loved ones who are far away, because companies are creating new apps and softwares that let us do that because they are keeping everyone in this situation in mind.

I keep thinking back to something Mr. Rogers said: “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Obviously, doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are clear examples of this. But I think now, we are all helpers, because we are all doing our part to keep each other safe and, if we are able to do so, do good deeds for our loved ones and for our neighbors. I usually consider myself a helper. But now that I am in a position where I can’t be, at least not in a traditional sense, I am invigorated by other people stepping up and helping me and my family in our time of need. Because of them, I remain hopeful of our ability to recover from this and, hopefully, to emerge from it much kinder and more grateful people than we were before.

Sam Walla, LPH Member & The Quadrangle’s Production Manager 

I don’t think about this everyday. Most days, in fact, I think about nothing. Some of my favorite time-wasting tasks include putting on running shoes and wandering around the house aimlessly until the sun goes down, opening and closing Instagram, and arguing with my sister over who gets to eat the last banana. Occasionally, I’ll feel sorry for myself about missing out on all of the best parts of junior year.

But there are some nights where I’ve exhausted every distraction possible and the magnitude of our reality catches up with me. Maybe I’ve got an overheard statistic rolling around in my head, or I read a thought-provoking Instagram caption. These days, it doesn’t take much. Amidst hours of isolation, things have become clearer to me. Problems that I have the ability to ignore due to jam-packed days and distractions make themselves known. Character flaws that can be glossed over by An Beal nights are still around. While much of the world struggles to adapt to a frightening situation, I am trying, for the twentieth year, to adapt to myself. There becomes a point in life, where you are no longer a child. Problem solving turns away from, “Someone should…” and “What if they…” to “What am I going to do about this?” There is a point where you either become who you thought you would, or you make excuses. Right now, I’m making excuses. I could come out of this with Chloe Ting abs, a journaling practice, or a freshly knitted sweater. Focusing my time on any of those pursuits would not make me a bad person. But I have always seen myself as someone who would eventually challenge the systems in place and go out of my way to help others. But I am still waiting for an opportunity instead of making one for myself.

This pandemic is a litmus test for personality. With normalcy stripped away, we can see how we truly act, and if the patterns we’ve laid out for ourselves are equivalent to what we believe is right. For me, the results have been far from what I had expected. I have been gentle with myself to a fault. I’m not one to scoff at self-care practices, but there becomes a point where a face mask is just a face mask. I know that attempting to help others is what would make me feel as though this time was not wasted, and I have been avoiding it out of complacency. From introspection comes action, and the last two months have given me all of the self-searching I can handle. It’s time to move.

Topher Nuzzo, LPH Member 

In times of tragedy, our need to stay in touch as humans still persists. Communication is a vital part of who we are and affects our mood, self-confidence, and overall well being. Now more than ever, the importance of online forms of communication are being showcased, and the way we interact with certain media will never be the same. Whether it be in a live-streamed concert to raise money for a particular charity or a facetime call to our loved ones, our mobile devices have become vessels for joy and positive change. I know that things are never going to be the same. Things aren’t going to return to “normalcy” because we are actively creating a new normal, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I find myself talking to friends and loved ones now more than ever before by playing online board games with friends, Facetiming family members, and just reaching out to see how people are. Without others to surround myself in a digital setting, I think I might go mad. As an extrovert who normally derives energy from being around people, it’s been particularly hard to spend my time with the same three people every day, and I’m one of the lucky ones. I know that this is temporary, but the way that we interact with others now certainly isn’t. This time in isolation has given us a new appreciation for those who we normally have around, and that appreciation can and will carry on until after social distancing comes to an end.

So our social lives have been affected but where does that leave all other aspects of our lives? Human touch as we know it is diminishing. Handshakes are questioned, hugs are discouraged, and the constant fear of germs is persistent. I think that for some time, things will be different, but we will begin to slowly allow ourselves to feel more comfortable with touch once again. Without it, love just wouldn’t be the same. So we adjust ourselves, and eventually, we forget, and we fall back into the same rhythm as before, but it will always be in the back of everyone’s minds.

Communication persists, and so do we.