A short article written for the 9th January edition of a local newspaper here in the North West of Ireland – The Sligo Weekender. Full text follows.
The early days of January are a time for reflection on the excesses of the previous weeks. In various places in the time leading up to Christmas, I came across numerous facts and figures relating to overindulegence. The Irish are at the top of the charts for excess that comes in many guises.
Chocolate for instance – we are the second biggest consumers in the world. Tea drinkers – we drink the most cups. Alcohol – you’ve guessed it, second biggest tipplers.
The most interesting figures for me are for mobile phones (or cell phones); They seemed to be the most heavily advertised stocking filler on television and newspapers in the lead up to Christmas. This is hardly a coincidence when you realise that we come in only behind the technology-mad Japanese for talking and texting. Easy to see then why we also have the highest telephone bills in Europe and second worldwide behind the Japanese, who at least are blessed with a superior telecommunications infrastructure.
The thing is, we don’t seem to mind too much. There is a research paper begging to be written on the psychology of all these league tables of excess and expensiveness. Such a study would broadly examine our skill and willingness at being champion consumers. It might also examine how we could bottle this for more achievement in a sporting context – soccer internationals spring immediately to mind.
Tongue in cheek might the observation be, but our cheeks seem perfectly at home with the mobile. In ten years we have gone from one in ten people owning a mobile to the point now where there are more mobiles than people.
My first mobile was at least five generations removed from the one sported by Michael Douglas on the beach in the movie Wall Street. Then, a mobile was regarded as a luxury. Now we are buying them for eight year olds.
There is no going back. Think back to the pre-mobile world – how did we organise ourselves? Being late or absent or forgetful or frantic was never easy in those times.
Of all of these, I think the meet-ups before the big match provide the best example. How did you arrange to meet someone on the spur of the moment outside Markievicz Park or McHale Park in Castlebar, or afterwards to remove to a comfortable hostelry?
Fast forward to the problems we have today around the same occasions. Last September as a Mayo supporter hopeful for a ticket for the All-Ireland Football Final, I was on Upper O’Connell Street scanning the crowds for any familiar faces.
At times like this you don’t want a “Network is Busy” message but rather something along the lines of “I have a spare ticket”. But with many thousands of people milling around and most of them on the phone, you can tell which message I was receiving – in retrospect given the result, I was actually one of the lucky ones.
A final league table fact – according to the University of Leicester, the Irish are the 11th happiest nation on Earth. Presumably the study was not done in January.
Anyone for the last strawberry filled chocolate?