From Twitter to TikTok, U of T community comes together online during COVID-19


On TikTok, University of Toronto students seeking to support each other have shared everything from recipes to instructions on how to cut your own hair. On Twitter, professors have reached out to let students know that they miss seeing them in person – and that it’s okay to have an unproductive day. And on YouTube, one U of T alumnus posted a seven-hour video of himself studying at King’s College London, so any student anywhere could have a study buddy.

As the world grapples with the global pandemic and people of all ages adjust to social distancing, quarantines, lockdowns and working from home, members of the U of T community have found many ways to come together online.

The marathon study video shared by recent grad Nasir Kharma, 24, who’s now studying medicine in the U.K., plays no music and has no graphics. It simply shows Kharma studying at his desk, and taking the occasional break. Yet it’s proven extremely popular. The video received than 130,000 views in the first week alone and more than 1,300 appreciative comments, including this one: “Am I the only one who responds like ‘sure thing’ whenever he says something like ‘I'm going to go make myself some coffee?’”

Kharma, who earned his honours bachelor of science as a member of New College in 2017, told writer Michael McKinnon he likes the sense of community he has when studying in a library and “in our current situation of isolation, I think having a ‘study with me’ video open while you’re studying can replicate that feeling of studying with people.”

Read the Arts & Science News story about Kharma

Few posts will reach as many people as Kharma’s study video. Many are aimed at giving support to a particular audience – like the #YouGotThis Twitter thread started by U of T’s Faculty of Law that drew encouraging messages from professors and alumni alike to support law students powering their way through exams.

Some posts have sparked meaningful conversations. Professor Fiona Rawle, associate dean of undergraduate studies at U of T Mississauga, asked students and professors to share the one thing they each wanted the other to know, leading to an open and heartfelt discussion. Faculty shared that they are worried about many things and miss their students but know students are resilient; students talked about their appreciation for the professors’ hard work – and their worries about letting them down.

“If ever there was a time for a pedagogy of kindness, it’s now,” Rawle, told U of T Mississauga writer Patricia Lonergan. “Now, it’s even more important to have open, honest and vulnerable communication.”

Read the U of T Mississauga story