From mutual followers to real-life friends: Northwestern students find community on Twitter


Illustration by Meher Yeda

Since the onset of the pandemic, the number of NU students looking for an online community has drastically increased, leading some to build friendships through Twitter.

Meher Yeda, Design Editor

Twitter can be an endless cycle of memes, news and the occasional celebrity apology. But some Northwestern students have also found unexpected friendships through the social media platform. 

NU Twitter, a colloquial term for the community students have built, is a digital space for students to share their thoughts on everything from the University to pop culture to their lives.

McCormick sophomore Hugh-Jay Yu and a self-described member of NU Twitter said he initially created a Twitter account in high school. It wasn’t until the start of the pandemic that he began to see more NU content on his timeline.

“There are people who I’ve never seen in person, but we have that level of knowledge about each other’s lives,” Yu said. “I feel (more) up to date on the people in my life that I follow on Twitter versus the people in my life that I don’t.”

According to Medill freshman Elisabeth Betts, NU Twitter has allowed her to not only connect with freshmen, but also upperclassmen. She said she’s enjoyed the chance to meet new people during the pandemic, especially because NU Twitter is a “collection of the funniest minds at Northwestern.”

But NU Twitter isn’t limited to the screen, either. Students have been taking their connections from messages to real-life meetups.

Communication junior Mia Hodges said she met her best friend through NU Twitter. Though they were in classes together, the two never spoke until Hodges decided to reach out on the app. She appreciates when people she knows online make the choice to talk to her in real life.

“It makes me so happy when people come up to me in person and they’re like, ‘Are you Mia?’” Hodges said. “I get so excited because it’s like someone can recognize me.”

Wanting to try out a new name for cultural and personal reasons, Hodges said she initially went to NU Twitter because it felt like a much better place to “test the waters about things.” She said this culture of acceptance has also allowed others to test their pronouns out online before asking people to use them in person.

Students of color have found a space in NU Twitter to not only bond with each other, but also to voice their frustrations with the University.

“At this University… Whiteness feels like a default,” Yu said. “It’s really uplifting to see these large aggregated spaces of POC voices and POC expression.”

For Betts, NU Twitter is a space she’s most comfortable speaking up about negative experiences in class. She turned to the Twitter community when a Medill professor displayed a photo of a recent act of police brutality. 

With the Black House closed for renovations, Black students do not have a physical affinity space on campus. Betts said Twitter has been a valuable alternative way to connect with other Black students at NU.

“I’ve definitely been held accountable for one of my tweets, but I actually like that aspect of NU Twitter — they don’t just let people say things unprovoked.” Betts said. “We can use Twitter just to vent, and there’s people that are listening.”

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