Outside-Inside

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

Do you know the song “Lay Me Bare” by Stormzy?


There’s a bit in it where he goes:


I get low sometimes So low sometimes Airplane mode on my phone sometimes Sitting in my house with tears on my face Can't answer the door to my bro sometimes


I’ve listened to that song about fifty times in the last two days. Everything’s felt bare heavy. Unless you’ve been self-isolating under a rock for the last month, you’ll be aware that we’re all stuck inside due to the break out of the so-called Coronavirus. (Side note: my new thing is calling it the “so-called Coronavirus” like when people used to call ISIS the “so-called Islamic State” to delegitimise it.)


I’ve not been a fan of this so-called Covid-19 and I think this staying inside malarkey has been bad for my so-called mental health.


I wanna do so much and use all this newfound time productively – write jokes, make videos, take an online university course. I wanna improve myself, so when the world returns to normal I’m ready to tear shit up. I’ll be able to go to that first post-Corona public gathering and announce to everyone that I now have extensive knowledge of business management and macroeconomics.


“I’m also now fluent in Python and Javascript and can proudly describe myself as an intermediate knitter – come at me motherfuckers.”


And then everyone will come at me with their programme bugs and a big ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles and I’ll be a hero.


But it’s not worked out. The only thing I can seem to knit together are past mistakes with anxieties about the future, woven nice and tightly around the present moment so as to make it unbearable.


Bit emo, but you get me.


And unlike Stormzy, I can’t manage to switch my phone to Airplaine mode. I’ve been refreshing Facebook so much in the last couple of days that I’ve started re-seeing posts about Bowie dying. Even Instagram, which I don’t use that much, has told me to get a life, telling me "I'm all caught up."


I think it’s my use on social media that’s made me feel like I need to use this time to improve myself, because other people are doing that. Everyone’s started a new fitness regime or is learning a new skill. And people keep citing examples in history where people have used hardship to come back stronger. Someone on my Facebook was going on about Nelson Mandela the other day and how he used his time in prison to write a book. It made me feel terrible. Now if at the end of this I don’t become the first black president of South Africa I’m gonna feel like an absolute failure.


People are also comparing it to wartime, although I’m very glad social media wasn’t around back then. Could you imagine some of the greatest horrors that have ever befallen mankind being undercut by Tik Toks of people doing keepy-uppies with bog roll?


It’s a cliché by this point that social media makes us all sad, but in theory this was its big chance to challenge that. With no more cavorting in public spaces allowed (ah man, I miss cavorting), we need something that connects us.


Social Media could’ve been the villain that turns into the good guy at the vital moment – suddenly gaining a conscience like Scrooge in the film A Muppets Christmas Carol, and giving out turkeys. But it’s the same old shit and I haven’t had one turkey yet, plus Kermit isn’t even allowed to invite me around for dinner anyway because of the lockdown.


Social media is our link at the moment to the outside-world, so it appeals. But it’s not really the outside world, because everyone’s inside, so it’s like the outside-inside world and instead of getting that connection we crave, we’re just looking at other people’s kitchens and comparing them to our own. It feels like a new competition has started and that competition is called, “Who’s having the best quarantine?” And I tell you what, Tiny Tim over here (me) doesn’t feel like he’s having a good one.


Now that couples are self-isolating together, they’re more annoying than ever: posting shit like “#day4 in quarantine with this one”. I’m not into it. Hopefully they’re driving each other insane and their #day112 post will be about how they looked into their partners eyes and the only thing that stared back at them was the impossibility of true love, while a sense of deep unwavering loneliness pulsated through their body. That’d be good.


Then there’re celebrities. We are all in this together, but staying inside is far less terrible if you have a mansion and a built-in gym and cinema. I live in a house share with 7 other people. It’s not the same. Also, these celebs have big fuck off gardens. Our garden is really overgrown and has junk everywhere so I can’t even go outside. Right now, my housemate’s old broken microwave is getting more vitamin D than I am.

Spending my day staring at the screen makes me feel disconnected, like nothing’s real. I can’t take the news in either. I thought it might just be me, but I’ve spoken to others and they felt a similar sense of loneliness and apathy while trawling through it all. Well I haven’t actually discussed it with anyone, but I’ve visualised myself in conversation with friends talking about it and they all agree, and also – totally umprompted – say that I’m a really handsome guy.


But I’m a hypocrite, because I’ve been feeding the whole thing as well. I’ve posted loads of videos on Facebook since I’ve been stuck inside, and now I’m not sure this obsession to be productive with online content is even conducive to making the best art. Could you imagine if Shakespeare had Instagram stories? I don’t think he’d be putting as much thought into his work. In fact, I don’t think he’d even be on the stories feature; I reckon he’d be getting catfished by a Brazillian model in his DMs. That’s the saddest part about catfishing for me – I always think ‘lads, think of the sonnets you could be writing right now.’


Even when I get a post that gets loads of likes it doesn’t feel that good for long. Because that like doesn’t really tell you much. It’s a nice bit of approval, but that person liking your post doesn’t necessarily have a deep connection with you and care for your well-being; they’re there for the lols, not the lows.


When I’m all cooped up in my bedroom, listening to Stormzy, I find myself thinking more about the people in my life that I do have that connection with. I realise that there are more than enough of them, but I just haven’t been as grateful as I should for them. I’ve been fantasising about getting a drink with people I care about when all this is over. And they won’t care if I’ve used the time apart to get better at knitting and I won’t care what they’ve done either – we’ll just be buzzing to be in each other’s company.


Maybe if there’s one good thing that comes out of the so-called Coronavirus pandemic, it’s that hopefully certain things will feel more precious to us. This constant deluge from the outside-inside world of quarantine social media will remind us to treasure the real outside world and the people that make our lives worthwhile. Maybe it will turn our values inside-out.


Anyway, that’s about it.


Cya x


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