The tweet has been liked by more than 508K people since being posted in March 2020.
When Ben Conarck took a job as a health reporter at the Miami Herald in fall 2019, it should have—under normal circumstances—been a quieter gig than his previous role of covering prisons and criminal justice for The Florida Times-Union. However, within months of Conarck accepting the position, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. "I was about six months into a yearlong commitment when the pandemic hit," he told First Coast News in April 2020. "And my job quickly became maybe the most crucial job in the newsroom, which was being the lead reporter on the coronavirus."
Conarck started tracking the outbreak in January 2020 and first reported about the health crisis the following month. "Since then it's obviously become the biggest story in the world. It's a crazy time," he said. The journalist shared that during that particular period in time, he spent most of his time reporting on the virus. "I wake up, probably have a few texts from my editor, and spend the entire day reporting... I haven't left my apartment [other than to walk his dog Coltrane] in about three weeks," he said. One of the benefits of his following the crisis so closely from the very beginning was that Conarck was able to get his grandma isolated pretty early on.
The coronavirus reminds us that we are all in this together. We cannot allow Americans to skip doctor's visits over outrageous bills.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 28, 2020
Everyone should get the medical care they need without opening their wallet—as a matter of justice and public health. https://t.co/c4WQMDESHU
"Part of the benefit of me focusing in on this stuff early on, before Connecticut confirmed its first case, I was like, 'make sure grandma doesn't leave the house, make sure she doesn't even go to the store.' And five days or so later, this party that has now made national news in The New York Times happened, where it was like a super spreading event... And that town that she lives in [Westport, Connecticut] became the epicenter of an outbreak. So we all feel really lucky that we got her out of harm’s way as soon as possible," he said.
My 89 y/o grandmother, who is isolated at home in CT, just told me she reads the replies to my tweets and then investigates the profiles of people who leave rude replies. So don’t be mean to me or my grandma will judge you.— Ben Conarck (@conarck) March 26, 2020
Despite being in lockdown, Conarck's grandmother touched hundreds of thousands of people in 2020. Not physically, mind you. Rather, in a pandemic-appropriate virtual manner, thanks to one of her grandson's tweets, which went viral on social media. "My 89 [year old] grandmother, who is isolated at home in CT, just told me she reads the replies to my tweets and then investigates the profiles of people who leave rude replies. So don't be mean to me or my grandma will judge you," reads the tweet—which has been liked by more than 508,000 people since being posted on March 27, 2020.
Now that she has gone super viral, Grandma Conarck has more thoughts: pic.twitter.com/P0VyCpubpO— Ben Conarck (@conarck) March 27, 2020
"I think [I] doubled or maybe tripled my number of followers over the past week because I tweeted about my grandma," Conarck said of his sudden popularity. "I had to mute the grandma tweet pretty early on. It was just unmanageable." When he told his grandmother about the tweet and asked her to read the replies to his tweet, she texted him: "Best day I have had since my lockdown. I wish I could send a homemade banana bread to all my new buddies—but blame Ben, he put me on lockdown!!!"
By popular demand: here’s her banana bread recipe. pic.twitter.com/VV08EhIGpG— Ben Conarck (@conarck) March 27, 2020
For Conarck, the whole incident served as "a bittersweet" reminder about people's priorities, he said. "I love my grandmother and glad everyone can connect to her, but it's like, hey, man—I've been doing pretty aggressive journalism for the past three-and-a-half years, and I guess it's the grandma content that people really want."