social distancing project coronavirus meg zukin

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This journalist is documenting quarantine horror stories

The coronavirus is threatening relationships, too.

Mar 17, 2020, 5:37 pm*

IRL

Moises Mendez II 

Moises Mendez II

The Social Distancing Project is bringing together people who are going through coronavirus self-quarantine hell.

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This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people don’t gather in groups larger than 50 for at least eight weeks, and many people are working from home for the first time. And while social distancing is an easy way to prevent the spread of coronavirus, it’s not hard to imagine the tensions that might fester between people quarantined together for long stretches of time.

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Last week, Meg Zukin, a 25-year-old social media editor and writer for Variety magazine, realized this and, jokingly, put out a call for relationships that might suffer from the coronavirus.

“If u live with a significant other and think all the co-quarantining will cause u to break up, email me,” Zukin tweeted. “I’m not writing a story im just messy and love drama.” 

She didn’t expect much of a response, but thousands of retweets and a jammed inbox later, she decided to make a private Google Doc to log the anonymously submitted stories. For $1 or more, she granted access to the document to anyone interested in the scalding tea. 

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But the document, too, expanded, and Zukin ultimately decided to build a free website. The stories, from friends with benefits stuck living together to doomsday prepper dads, now live on The Social Distancing Project. Zukin said in two days, she made over $5,000, which she donated to food banks and other nonprofits. 

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Zukin told the Daily Dot that she “wasn’t that surprised by receiving the first few stories” but that she “was shocked when the stories continued to roll in and the project began to blow up.”

Still, Zukin said she wasn’t too surprised by the dramatic quarantine experiences because she’s “big into the Bravo Cinematic Universe” and “very accustomed to wild gossip and fights.”

As the project expanded, Zukin recruited help. She has friends who helped her design the website and manage the website for a few hours a week. Other friends, she said, “have been huge pillars of support by donating, retweeting, and sharing the project.”

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If you feel like you’re getting a mild case of cabin fever, she suggests streaming online workout classes or trying to get into a TV series you never got around to watching. She plans on managing the website as long as she continues to get submissions—and is asking folks to remember to donate, too.

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*First Published: Mar 17, 2020, 5:32 pm