How the new Discord feature allows students to connect with their classmates
BY ARI MASTERS STAFF WRITER
Mason students are connecting in new ways this semester, thanks to a new “Student Hubs” feature on Discord.
Discord is a private messaging platform which allows users to communicate through text messaging, video and voice chats in public or private groups known as “servers.” Originally popular mostly in the gaming community, the pandemic has launched Discord into the mainstream. In 2020, Discord boasted 300 million active users, up 50 million from the previous year.
Recently, Discord began rolling out a “Student Hubs” feature, which allows students to find servers created by their classmates by inputting their school email. All of the servers a student has access to are grouped together in a list, called a “Hub.”
This semester, Mason students have been taking advantage of this new feature as a means to connect with their classmates, even as the Delta variant prolongs the isolation brought on by the pandemic.
Mika Dang, a Creative Writing major, says that using Discord has eased her transition into university life.
“Since I’m a freshman coming out of quarantine senior year, I didn’t really have much in-person experience with the Mason community, and Discord was actually what let me connect with my current friend group here,” Dang said. “Everything I know about events, classes and clubs are now just mostly from that server.” Dang is a member of the GMU Discord server, which was created over the summer.
Currently, there are over 100 servers accessible through the George Mason University Student Hub. Servers in the Hub are grouped by category: Clubs, Classes & Subjects, Social & Study and Miscellaneous.
Within those categories, servers host a wide variety of communities — currently, the most popular servers are “GMU Esports,” “GMU Computer Science,” “r/GMU” (affiliated with the Mason Reddit community) and “GMU 2025.” Each of these servers have upwards of 1,000 members.
Many servers are connected to a specific Mason student organization or major, while others connect a specific group of students, like the “Illustrators at Mason,” “GMU Commuter and Transfer Life” and “Mason Pride LGBTQ+ Hangout” servers.
Many servers have embraced their virtual format, either as a pandemic-safe alternative to in-person communication, or as means of connection in and of themselves.
In the “Illustrators at Mason” server, students share their works in progress and finished projects with a supportive community. In the “GMU Model UN” server, “Saturday Simulations” are held through voice chat in lieu of in-person meet ups.
The Mason Culinary Club has become inactive during the pandemic, but the server is still busy with members chatting about what they have been cooking and posting photos of their creations.
In the academic servers, students post updates for their peers who are unable to make it to class.
Discord has been particularly advantageous for Mason’s Table-Top Roleplaying Games (TTRPG) Club, which has been using Discord to organize since before the start of the pandemic, as a way to allow commuter students to participate in games.
Club president Calvin Yah-Lu says the club is uniquely suited to run on Discord, as the platform allows for small groups to break off into separate chats within servers.
According to Yah-Lu, this allows for “small and intimate meetings between a few people all over campus at times which are convenient for each group,” and “allows for each game master to independently run their own game session without being cut off from the greater club community” without having to worry about cramming all the groups in a single room for meetings.
The TTRPG Club’s hybrid format means it was able to avoid many of the hardships other clubs are now facing.
“Because we had this Discord server set up, we were able to continue running games and serving our community as a recreational meeting ground without compromising university safety requirements,” Yah-Lu said.