Walking contradiction: Students find camaraderie on r/UIUC


Screenshot of Reddit

The front page of the UIUC subreddit is pictured above.

By Aidan Finn, Staff Writer

As the initial weeks of the online semester began, feelings of confusion and fear were met with optimism-fueled memes and collective spirit on the University of Illinois subreddit, r/UIUC. As time moved on, though, those outlooks have changed tunes.

Discussion of the degrading mental health of University students has not been ignored. ​Local news channels like WCIA have touched on the growing issue​. The University itself has made great strides in addressing the stress with the ​WellTrack app​ and various other methods of prioritizing the well-being of students in conjunction with academic progress.

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Nonetheless, this semester has been an endurance test. Stress surrounding the ongoing pandemic and vulgar political divisions amidst a chaotic election has caused many students to feel tired, afraid and hopeless. All these expressions of emotion have found their place on the University’s Reddit page. Given the anonymous nature of Reddit in general, people are prone to give more raw and honest pieces of mind, but to say negativity in the past weeks has been excessive is an understatement.

In this void of collective despair, students have come together in consolidation. A sense of camaraderie amidst the growing frustration has formed, from dry humor mocking the situation to complete strangers comforting each other with kind words and relatable memes.

Shiv Bhatia, sophomore in AHS, said in an email that a lot of things have been bringing him down.

“The obvious reason is the coronavirus pandemic,” Bhatia said. “Being stuck in my apartment all day is detrimental to my mental health. The nice thing about high school and last year as a freshman were that I looked forward to going home and going back to my room. Now, as soon as I finish homework, a quiz or a test, I’m still in the same environment where I was working.”

Bhatia said some have suggested moving to a different room or area like the kitchen table, but that didn’t work for him either. Bhatia said he now feels like he is stuck in this endless loop of sleep and school, with no in-person interactions with anyone except for my roommate and two other friends.

Bhatia wrote that he will turn to r/UIUC for comfort or solidarity.

“I go to (r/UIUC) because it reassures me that I am not the only one struggling,” Bhatia said. “As a matter of fact, it has shown me that I am doing much better than some of my fellow Illini.”

To them and the rest of the Illini family, he said he wanted to express that everyone will get through this. Online classes are a pain and not having any social interactions makes it so much harder. However, Bhatia wrote that they would prevail and GPAs don’t define anyone.

“They get our foot in the door, but there are other ways to open that door yourself. Stay strong, Illini,” he said.

Briana Bragg, a sophomore in LAS, shared similar frustrations, though she also expressed a sense of optimism.

“Something that’s bringing me down is being too attached to social media and online gaming,” Bragg said. “I tend to always choose social apps over completing or studying for assignments, and through my grades, it has shown itself to have a negative impact on me. I don’t feel sad or anything. I’m currently working on changing my bad habits.”

Despite the things that are bringing her down, Bragg said she is still smiling because life’s too short to spend it beating herself up over mistakes.