We are all finding new ways to express ourselves in the age of lockdown. Before, if we wanted to project our personality to the world we had to use rudimentary tools such as clothing or haircuts. But now that the bulk of our social and professional interaction comes via video-conferencing apps such as Skype or Zoom, we have found something new at our disposal: our backgrounds.
You can tell an enormous amount about a person by the location of their camera during a video chat. I promise you, gaze over someone’s shoulder next time you’re chatting to them online and you’ll be able to see into their soul. Here are ten examples of the new personality types.
Nothing screams status in the days of self-isolation like having constant access to the outside. And there is a certain type of person who will use this as a weapon during video calls. “Isn’t it a lovely day?” they’ll simper from their well-maintained lawn, taking huge gulps of clean air while butterflies lazily flit around their head. “I hope I don’t burn in the sunshine,” they appear to be saying. Their colleagues, many of whom will be stuck in grotty flats all day, will hate them for this ostentation. But that was always the goal, wasn’t it?
One way to impress the team is to demonstrate your good taste by sitting in front of some wall art that perfectly encapsulates your personality. Large oil painting? You’re classically wealthy. Retro art print? You’re quirky and unique. Foreign movie poster? Nobody is more cultured than you. New York cityscape? You went to Ikea once.
Don’t worry, everyone. These are scary times, and uncertainty hangs over every breath, but the person with the home office is a reassuring presence. Long before things went belly up, they had arranged everything just the way they wanted. Look at them. It’s as though you’re back at work, isn’t it? It’s as though the outbreak never happened. The person with the home office wants you to know that everything will be OK in the end. Consider them your temporary parent.
The Martha Stewarts
Plenty of people are struggling to adapt to this new world, and the impossible task of balancing full-time work with full-time family, but the person who makes video calls from their kitchen wants you to know that they are not one of them. They’re broadcasting from the hearth of their home. Saucepan lids clatter industriously on the cooker behind them. Maybe they’re dusted with flour from the focaccia they just knocked up. They make it all look so effortless, don’t they? The bastards.
Remember that guy at work who you know, but don’t really know? The guy who never talks about his home life and never goes to the pub with you, and absolutely never invites anyone to his house? He’s broadcasting in front of a plain white wall. Just because he has to let strangers into his home for the duration of a meeting, it doesn’t mean that he has to give anything away. He could live in a bedsit or a mansion or a drugs den. Whatever it is, this enigma will make sure you never discover the truth.
The Hoarders with Borders
Forced into whatever spare space they could find, the box-room broadcaster is scattered and apologetic. To look behind them during a call is to see an entire lifetime of stuff piled up without order. There are some half-read books here, a small collection of table lamps there. A dust-covered musical instrument. A rolled-up rug. Three bags of old clothes that haven’t quite made it to the charity shop. An exercise bike that hasn’t been used since the mid-1980s. The box-room broadcaster might have plenty of good ideas, but now that you’ve seen how they live, you will never listen to any of them.
The Canine Coddlers
Everyone’s new best friend. If you let your pet dog lollop around in the background with its tongue sticking out, you should know that you are a force for good. You’re reminding everyone of a more innocent time, distracting them from the darkness with a pure blast of happiness. Nobody will get anything done with you around because they’ll spend the entirety of every meeting telling you what a good boy the dog is, but these days we have to take what we can get.
The Loco Parent(i)s
Pity the parent of young children, struggling to squeeze a full day’s work into the duration of Toy Story 4. You can see the children behind them, screaming and fighting and constantly interrupting them to ask idiotic questions about what bicycles would be like if they were made out of bricks. The parent has aged several decades since the start of lockdown and has developed a visible twitch. “BOYS!” they’ll keep yelling during important work calls. “STOP EATING THE CURTAINS!” You get a sense that, if the parent could go and deliberately catch coronavirus to spend a quiet week in hospital, they would.
The Dethroned Despots
They will try to hide it with a weird low angle, but the echo will always give them away. This person is calling from their bathroom. They’re talking to you while they sit on the toilet. Note: almost without exception, the toilet broadcaster is likely to be a parent who hasn’t even had a single minute of peace and quiet since the schools shut. Do not judge them, for their lives are a living hell.
The Loafing Psychics
At first, the sheer laziness of the bed broadcaster might astonish you. “They haven’t even got up!” you’ll think on spying the pillow creases on the side of their head. “They haven’t even got dressed!” But chide them at your peril. The bed broadcaster has taken stock of the news, and the situation, and the shifting sands of the home/work divide, and they’ve realised that this is the future. Laugh at them all you want now, but if this lockdown stretches on beyond Easter, you’ll be doing the same thing.