The lockdown reveals us to ourselves in unexpected ways.
The ninevoices are used to getting together every fortnight. We thought: lockdown isn’t going to stop us. So we first tried Skype (four voices, five faces, and most of the conversation consisting of “How do I turn the picture on?”). Then we tried Zoom (eight faces, nine voices, thanks to some stalwart mobile-phone patching by Anita). We’ll try Zoom again, if only because nine faces lends itself beautifully to a 3 x 3 grid, and no-one suddenly decamps to a corner and goes mute.
Like everyone in the world who’s trying to keep in touch through Skype and Zoom and Facetime and Whatsapp video and Google Hangouts and lots of other clever apps, we’re discovering that it’s not just our voices and faces we’re presenting to the world. It’s what’s in the background – our homes. Admit it – you look at all those video phone-ins from journalists and presenters, and what you’re really thinking is: “I like your lamps” or “Gosh, you’re very traditional” or “Do you really have bookcases in your basement?”.
So I think we’ve all learned to pick our spots. We position the laptop in the corner of a tidy room, or in front of the serious books, or angled towards the good curtains, or certainly away from the carnage of unwashed dishes in the kitchen. We position the webcam at eye level or above, we face a window. We brush our hair carefully to disguise how we’re turning into Boris Johnson. We’re learning to edit our lives to show ourselves to the world to best advantage.
Late night host Seth Meyers in his Covidic attic studio. Well jel.
Which makes me think: as writers, do we do the same? In our writing, do we show our unmade beds and the curtain sagging from the runners? Do we reveal that we don’t mind dirty plates hanging round on a table for a week or two? Or do we arrange the books on the shelf so that the Philip Roths hide the George RR Martins? Is our writing a place where we present ourselves as a slightly different person?
I do know that when a friend emailed that she planned to Facetime me in ten minutes, I hastily took off a jumper decorated with food stains, and rushed out to the garden to take the call, having first worked out which bit of foliage would look prettiest behind me. After the call I went straight back indoors. It was the worst kind of self-instagramming, but was somehow necessary to disguise the fact that the only way I could have had tidiness in shot behind me was to Facetime her while sitting on the loo.
How do YOU roll? What’s behind you in the Zoom frame? What does your writing carefully edit out?
Christine, who currently looks like