A sense of community can be hard to find in public during a pandemic, but thanks to live streaming services such as Twitch, students have been able to connect and socialize with other people while contributing to an online community.
Twitch is an online live streaming service directed mostly to gamers who broadcast their gameplay by sharing their screen with subscribers or anyone else who wants to join in.
“It definitely helps to socialize in a situation where you otherwise wouldn't socialize in,” second-year journalism student Dylan Ortuno said.
Ortuno streams games such as League of Legends, Beat Saber, Super Mario 64 and more. When playing single-player games, it’s nice to have another person talking to you in the chat box feature to keep you company, he said.
Since Twitch is international, people interacting through the chat can be from anywhere in the world.
Ortuno has made friends through the Twitch community he said he probably wouldn't have made otherwise. One friend Ortuno has made through Twitch watches his streams from Germany despite the difficulty of time zone differences.
“My favorite part about streaming is just the fact that you can connect with people from all over the world and have this like, relationship with them, where you can have these conversations that you wouldn't normally ever be able to have,” first-year business management student Levi Zwiernikowski said.
Zwiernikowski is a gaming streamer and said a couple people from Lithuania frequently watch his streams. He said it’s interesting to talk to them and hear their perspectives and experiences, since that’s something he wouldn't be able to normally learn about.
For someone who has always lived in South Carolina, it can be easy to only think about things from a South Carolina viewpoint, Zwiernikowski said, but when you get a chance to talk to people from all over the world, “you start to realize that every single issue has so many different sides to it."
Similarly, Twitch can be used to “further ties with reality,” since a wide variety of people from various backgrounds come together to watch streams and talk about what’s going on around them, according to Ortuno.
But Twitch can also be a way to escape from reality.
“Being in college is really stressful, so just watching a stream really helps me, like, de-stress,” first-year political science student Jazmine Lara Guerrero said.
Lara Guerrero has been watching Minecraft content on Twitch since she was in middle school, and sometimes uses Twitch streams as a distraction from the bad things that are happening in her life, she said.
Lara Guerrero said she knows a lot of other people who also use Twitch as a way to escape from the real world, since so many people are battling with issues right now related to the global pandemic.
According to Zwiernikowski, because of the pandemic, more people are looking for online entertainment — which is why Twitch has been becoming so popular. Streaming gives people live entertainment and a form of communication that people want, he said.
“You could just tell that all of these people who were watching me and having these conversations with me, they were dying to, you know, have these conversations with people, but you can't just go out and meet people and go out and see your friends like you normally would,” Zwiernikowski said.
Partaking in these conversations is not only a way to socialize with others around the world, but also a way to support streamers.