Discord creates peace of mind

Jefferson organizations gravitate to Discord as a new way to uphold traditions


Photo courtesy of Joshua Lian.

With the move to virtual competitions starting in Month, senior Joshua Lian uses Discord to run and participate in Quizbowl tournaments. “[Discord] was already being used by much of the Quizbowl community to run online tournaments. It blossomed and developed into a full fledged thing once the pandemic locked everyone at home with no way to get tournaments,” Lian said.

Anna Hsu, Staff Writer

Discord, a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) platform traditionally used by gamers to chat and call, pivoted in a new direction as the COVID-19 pandemic has surged across the globe. The platform has actually rebranded itself in the past few months as a place to create communities, an idea many Jefferson students have embraced. With the unique function of “servers” where many users of similar interests can gather, many Jefferson clubs and groups utilize Discord to host a virtual community to meet others.

Freshman Melissa Brown is an administrator on the “TJ’s Class of 2024” Discord server. Due to distance learning, freshmen have yet to meet in person for the first time, so some creative students decided to make a Discord server just for freshmen. Brown has found meeting other students on the server to be a good opportunity to make connections.

“[I joined to chat] with TJ [people] to either help for [homework and] school or just to talk,” Brown said. “Discord just feels easier to use and a lot of people are active on it all the time, while [on] Facebook not too many people are on it and the people who are aren’t the same as the people on Discord. The Discord aesthetic is better [too].”

Freshman Noah Kabiri originally took the initiative to create the server after realizing the difficulties of connecting with others at a new school in a virtual environment.

“I created the Discord server because I really didn’t know my peers. I didn’t think that Facebook was really cutting it; I wouldn’t say I felt kind of lonely, but I felt disconnected from my peers,” Kabiri said. “As a result, I didn’t know how to communicate with peers, and usually the only way I really talk to people online is through Discord. I thought, ‘There’s probably not a TJ Discord server for freshmen, so how about I make one?’”

Older students have found that while they like forging new connections, they miss previous in-person experiences with friends. Senior Kevin Gu is an admin on the TJ Lunch server, hoping to retain some sense of normalcy through Discord.

“The reason I created TJ Lunch was because the most social period of time at TJ was during lunch, and a friend suggested we create a Discord server so that we could talk again during lunch. We had the idea that the more people joined, the more it would actually feel like the original TJ Lunch and it would be more immersive,” Gu said. “We never had high hopes because not everyone has Discord to begin with, but we have actually achieved more than we expected. Right now only about 3 or 4 groups of people use TJ Lunch [including me and my friends] during lunch, but there are about 220 students on the server.”

However, there have still been some unanticipated drawbacks to a Discord server.

“The biggest problem [with TJ Lunch] is that people only meet up when they make a plan. They have to tell their friends when and what voice channel they’ll join, and we have no control over whether people make these plans or not,” Gu said.

One of the reasons that Discord has been so successful is the wide variety of features available for users. From text and voice channels to roles, there are a plethora of opportunities for customization, allowing for more flexibility in servers. This has proved to be crucial for many Jefferson activities. Senior Joshua Lian is the Tournament Director of TJ Quizbowl (TJQB). As a result of the pandemic, TJQB started using Discord more frequently for tournaments due to its flexibility.

“Discord is very versatile; you can make a lot of voice and text channels which is handy when you’re doing a lot of stuff like in a club environment,” Lian said. “We’ve actually already hosted a tournament on Discord and it was pretty successful. [There were] not a lot of logistical issues given that the only thing you have to manage is one server.”

The TJQB server is unique compared with those of other Jefferson clubs in that it was created before lockdowns and instead was started by the club’s officers two years ago.

“It went mostly unused, since most people just went to the in-person practices, but now, everyone’s on and using it since we’ve been shut at home,” Lian said. “We will most definitely be using Discord as we go back to school. It’s a lot easier to communicate through it, and the functionality really makes it a platform we can each tailor to our own needs.”

As he has gotten familiar with the functions of Discord, Lian has come to find some particularly useful and interesting to him.

“My favorite function is actually the automation and easy customization that can be added to Discord. There are a lot of bots that allow us to expand the capabilities of Discord, whether it be assigning permissions automatically to making rooms for tournaments to even the stupid anime and pokemon bots out there — it’s super easy to customize if you can wrap your head around Discord’s API,” Lian said.

Lian is also the owner and creator of the Microelectronics Research Lab server.

“I created the TJ Electronics server to spread the awareness of TJ’s electronics offerings — clubs and classes and senior research, along with just building a community that could just chill and breadboard together,” Lian said.

Although Discord is traditionally considered to be a platform for gamers, its versatility allows clubs to continue their events and traditions even during the era of COVID-19.

“I didn’t know a lot about Discord until COVID-19 struck and everything went online; I thought it was just a thing for gamers. But once I got used to it, it opened up a lot for me and it’s really really nice. It’s just a high-quality platform that allows for easy sandboxing. You can create whatever you want,” Lian said. “The stigma surrounding it that it’s solely for the gamers is bad for it. It could be applied in so many other ways outside of gaming.”

For some clubs, the transition to Discord appears to be a broader permanent shift rather than a temporary one solely for use during the pandemic.

“I think [the server] would probably be less active, but I for sure would still be using it. It’d be a disservice to it if I stopped using it. I think I created a community just around getting to know each other, even though we’re not going to school in normal life,” Kabiri said.

For other servers, their existence is merely temporary.

“COVID-19 is the direct cause for the creation of TJ Lunch, and to be honest, I don’t think TJ Lunch would have any purpose once we all go back to school,” Gu said.