August 2011. Gus, a 19-year-old home-schooled Christian from Jolie, Illinois is trawling Facebook. He’s just recovered from a debilitating bout of depression, and he’s looking for someone to talk to. Through an online personality test, he finds a match: Jiyun, a 20-year-old from Korea, who moved to New York City with her family for her brother’s cancer treatment. Gus messages her, and they begin chatting.
“I started to fall for him when I saw these tagged videos on Facebook,” Jiyun reveals in Nancy Schwartzman’s short documentary, xoxosms. “That was my first time actually seeing his face. I was like, ‘Oh, wait, he’s really cute. I like his voice.’” Jiyun found herself attracted to Gus’s innocence, living a secluded life in a small town; he was fascinated by her urban lifestyle and international background. Over the course of two years, their correspondence would bloom into a long-distance relationship, archived in instant messages and video-chat footage.
“xoxosms” was directed by Nancy Schwartzman. It is part of The Atlantic Selects, an online showcase of short documentaries from independent creators, curated by The Atlantic.