No matter how much we hate to admit it, we all love being nosy from time to time. There’s something about other people’s live lives that’s wonderfully fascinating. Having a front row seat to the mundane, messy details of someone else’s existence is also indescribably comforting. It reminds you that your life – with all its weird quirks, relationship problems and general issues – is just the same as anyone else’s.
The coronavirus lockdown has added a whole other level of intrigue to the lives of the people around us. We’re all living through pretty extraordinary circumstances right now, so learning more about how other people are dealing with things is as much comforting as it is entertaining.
It’s this fascination with the quarantine experiences of people around the world which triggered writer and social media editor Meg Zukin to post a simple tweet.
“If you live with a significant other and think all the co-quarantining will cause you to break up, email me at megzukin at gmail dot com,” she wrote. “I’m not writing a story, I’m just messy and love drama.”
Within days, Zukin was inundated with responses from people around the world sharing their stories about love and loss during the time of coronavirus. The original tweet, which now has 6,500 retweets and over 78,000 likes, quickly went viral – inspiring Zukin to compile all the anonymous stories in a Google Doc and charge people $1 to access it, with the money she raised going to people affected by coronavirus. She raised $5,000 in the first two days.
Fast forward just over three weeks later, and Zukin’s project has become a fully-fledged movement, aptly titled The Social Distance Project. Not only does the project now have a website, it’s Instagram account has over 17,000 followers – and Zukin and her co-manager Sarah Nixon have managed to raise $7,686.58 so far.
At the centre of all this lies the main focus of the project: the intimate stories about relationships under quarantine. Although the initial focus of the project had been couples quarantining together (and having relationship problems as a result), The Social Distance Project now publishes stories about everything from friendship dramas to family routines.
“I’d really been thinking about how this will have such a profound effect on people’s personal lives, and that isn’t being talked about in the news because there are more important things going on on the macro scale,” Zukin told The Guardian.
“I feel like a lot of people feel as though their personal anxieties or fights with their partner or family member are not important and they should just be grateful that they have a place to live – but it’s not nothing, just because it’s not top-billed news.”
The stories published on Instagram range from the mundane to the dramatic. There’s stories about one woman realising her boyfriend is an angry worker now they both work from home – “does he realise he’s slamming his own desk, mouse and keyboard?” – and tales of people questioning why quarantine has led them to connect with ex-partners.
One person even explained how they’d got themselves a “quarantine boyfriend” after deciding to spend lockdown with someone after three dates.
“I’m in a house with his mom, his dog, and I brought my cat over,” the post explains.
Among the humour and slightly awkward interactions, there are also stories with a more serious tone.
“I told my husband of almost five years I wanted to get divorced on his birthday a week ago,” one story reads. “My work is going on 10 day rotations to limit interactions. I’m on the first rotation and then home with him for 20 days. It’s… something.”
“My sister knows how scared I am of getting the coronavirus and she has begun to develop a cough,” begins another. “Every time she coughs SHE TURNS AND LOOKS AT ME. Every time I complain the rest of my family yells at me and I’ve resorted to going to bed at 7pm every night.”
If there’s one thing we can all take away from The Social Distance Project, it’s that quarantine looks different for every single one of us – and even if our relationships are struggling under the pressure of lockdown, we’re not alone.
Despite everything that’s happening around the world, we can take comfort in the fact that humans are still just as weird and wonderful as ever, even when we’re all stuck inside.