Awkward: How do you reach out to a crush you have only met through a Zoom class?

By Summer Hoagland-Abernathy, Copy Chief

Sedona Steffens

Your teacher asks another discussion question about the star-crossed lovers in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” and that really intuitive, kind, funny or cute person in your Zoom class raises their emoji-hand to answer. You bump your volume up a notch.

Whether you have a romantic or platonic crush on your Zoom classmate, there are several ways to reach out and talk to them, beyond listening to their responses in class.

The Chronicle spoke with experts on how to make first contact with a classmate you have only ever seen through a tiny video square.

First, find something to talk about.

“You probably know very little about them personally,” said psychologist and friendship expert Irene S. Levine in a Jan. 17 email to the Chronicle. “One strategy might be to find out more about the person, either through a mutual contact or their profile on the Internet. Since you already have something in common, you could initiate [an] impersonal conversation.”

Sylvia Mikucki-Enyart, relationship researcher and assistant professor at the University of Iowa in the Department of Communication Studies, said social media and “sliding into someone’s DMs” can be great tools to connect.

Whether that be just saying “hello,” sharing a meme or commenting on something they have posted, you are creating new shared experiences, and you can now talk about shared experiences you have had in class.

When you get to the point where you think you might want to meet, Mikucki-Enyart said to take some pressure off of the other person by asking in a way that lets them say “no” without it being a flat-out rejection. For example, asking if they would like to walk with you while you grab some takeout could be met with “I have a ton of homework tonight.”

But before moving straight to Zoom or in-person hangouts, see what mode of communication—text, email, Snapchat, etc.—makes you both most comfortable, said Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of Beyond Etiquette. From there, you can start to see if they are engaging and want to continue talking, then you can get to know them better outside of a class setting.

Hollie Schmid, marriage and family therapist at Relationship Reality 312, said if you want to ask them to hang out in person or over Zoom, you could start the conversation with the angle of needing help in the course or needing some human connection during the pandemic.

After you have hung out a few times, see if those feelings of a romantic crush are still there, Schmid said. Be transparent, communicate your feelings and see if they would be interested in hanging out as a date, rather than just friends.

Alexandra H. Solomon, clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, said because you have done something risky, no matter how the interaction goes, you should still feel brave for reaching out.

The outcome of the interaction—a “yes” or “no” from your Zoom crush—doesn’t matter as much when you focus on yourself and the experience of being bold and taking the lead, she said.

“Normalize the awkwardness, it’s going to feel awkward,” Solomon said. “It may not translate well to a face-to-face interaction, but it totally might. … Dating is always a gamble, and this might feel like a bit more of a gamble, but it’s not like dating pre-pandemic was a bunch of guaranteed outcomes.”