Meg Zukin invited the internet to spill the tea on all the self-isolation dramas going on behind closed doors, and what she got back turned into something way bigger than she was expecting.
if u live with a significant other and think all the co-quarantining will cause u to break up, email me at megzukin at gmail dot com. i’m not writing a story im just messy and love drama
— meg zukin (@bymeg) March 13, 2020
“I tweeted it first as a joke, and then realized quickly that it was a shared sentiment,” Zukin says. “I started receiving emails from strangers shortly after my initial tweet went viral. I think people wanted to participate in something on the internet and also needed to vent. These are trying times!”
Stories poured into her inbox about people trapped in quarantine with cheating boyfriends, hypochondriac girlfriends, surprise houseguests with possible sexual tension, and partners they already intended to break up with who just hadn’t gotten a chance to move out before coronavirus isolation orders went down.
“Some people have moved out of the home they share with their spouse and back into their parents’ homes, which is fully deranged to me,” Zukin says. “My personal favorites are the squabbles over nothing. There is a story about a boyfriend and girlfriend fighting over limes which feels especially relatable, especially when people start to go stir-crazy and get annoyed with the way their partner breathes.”
She had clearly hit a nerve, and realized that sharing the stories might provide some comfort, or at least entertainment, to an anxious, house-bound public. With the permission of the people who were sharing their stories, she decided to make them available to the public to read in a Google Doc, in exchange for donations to be used to help those most impacted by the pandemic. In two days, she had raised $5,000 to distribute to groups including the L.A. Regional Food Bank, Los Angeles LGBT Center, and Planned Parenthood.
In just days, it’s grown into a stand-alone site called The Social Distance Project. Now scrolling through posts about people threatening to break up over board games and fights about what groceries to add to the coronavirus stockpile, are available to more people (and free, though donations are still suggested). And reading those stories of human anxiety, pettiness, and stress is both alluring and comforting.
“I think people are fundamentally nosy and also drawn to gossip. Look at the tabloid industry,” says Zukin. “But I also think right now anonymous stories from real people invoke some sense of community. It reminds me of early blogging culture, or even Tumblr, and I think people are searching for places to gather and share.”