“A place to share the pain” Online communities in the time of COVID.

A friend of mine, Tom, has a huge taste for the kitsch side of middle England.

He loves basically anything that features a regional accent complaining about a benign aspect of society, praising something wholly inconsequential or reminiscing about “bygone days”.

For reference, these are the kinds of videos Tom sends me:

Of course, these kinds of videos feed into the cringe-culture of UK twitter, and can sometimes be used to laugh at working class people. But what I think what Tom enjoys about this kind of media is the sincerity of the people in them.

It’s like a lack of self awareness that isn’t directly cringe inducing, but just funny.

So when Tom added me to a page entitled “The LOCK Inn – ONLINE PUB”, I immediately knew what to expect.

It is a constant stream of pub singer streams, boomer memes, SHOW THIS TO JIM moments, “do you remember this” threads, “proper bloke” tiktoks, complaints about zoomers, COVID news and just all around middle England content.

Not to mention the constant boomer gauntlets, simulated faithfully here:

That is a thankfully short representation of what these threads actually look like, but you get the picture.

The world online has looked different since lockdown began, turning to a quiet and subdued drip of either terrifying news or DIY guides. The LOCK INN ONLINE PUB is a sign of these times as middle aged men and women begin to use the internet in ways that previously their children done.

The constant accidental facebook live streams is an example, which feature either Gail or Shannon holding their phones at arms length, glasses affixed expressing surprise at other Gails and Shannons tuning in to watch. Their kids have YouNow and Instagram Live, they have the LOCK INN ONLINE PUB.

My absolute favourite aspect of this community is the aforementioned Livestream Pub singers and DJs that appear every weekend to a rapturous applause and endless shoutout request.

Some of them genuinely get about 3,000 viewers on this platform, performing all the hits like Highway to Hell, Bat out of Hell, Gives you Hell, Born to Raise Hell and Making your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz.

The jovial small talk of a middle aged man in his front room or conservatory has given me at the very least, something to watch these weekends, and I always look forward to see what new setting they have the disco-lights set to.

I think this lockdown has forced a lot more people to consider their online selves as closer to their normal selves, since people log into pages like THE LOCK INN ONLINE PUB and see thousands of others just like them.

Its actually become the online unifying space that Zuckerberg once pretended it could be, thousands of people locked in by chance brought together by their united SHOW THIS TO JIM antics at a pub which exists on Facebook.

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