In the Beginning was the Text

My sister Caroline’s thumbs blur as she pecks out text messages at the dinner table. Claire is tutoring my parents on how to text each other; they are late adopters. Ireland sends more text messages per person than any other country in the world: two million on New Year’s Eve alone, 100 million over the Christmas period. There are only four million pairs of thumbs here.

My sister Caroline’s thumbs blur as she pecks out text messages at the dinner table. Claire is tutoring my parents on how to text each other. They are late adopters. Ireland sends more SMS or text messages per person than any other country in the world: two million on New Year’s Eve alone, 100 million over the Christmas period. There are only four million pairs of thumbs here.

Ireland sends more data by phone than any other country except Japan. They are ahead with their camera phones, but barely, and not for long if sites like FoneBlog take off. In the toilets in Nancy Blake’s pub, there are posters advertising pre-made SMS messages sent with grainy grayscale illustrations and jingles: Christmas greetings, cracker jokes, and pickup lines. Dial 544545 to send the greeting

whats ur name or will i just read it off ur phone in the morning.

People _pay for this stuff_.

Irish email style is infected by the much-more prevalent texting form. Even from a full-sized keyboard people send text pidgin: punctuation-free phone slang that takes longer to parse than to peck. “Let’s see now what’s come in on the email,” they say reverently on the radio, like 1930s Mayo men talking about The Electricity. Most people I know don’t check email daily, yet “Text me, hon” is as much a part of life as “Give us a ring”. And texting has not replaced the chat. Phones chirp constantly, and they’re answered mid-conversation in restaurants, on the train, at the cinema, in the car. In confession, too, for all I know. “Let it go to bloody voicemail for once,” I keep wanting to spit, but no one else seems to find this crack-monkey behaviour annoying.

Last night RTE News reported the new mobile phone usage statistics with the headline “We love to talk”. We do. Just not to the people we’re sitting with.

3 thoughts on “In the Beginning was the Text”

  1. Hi Dervala,

    I have been reading your blog for a while now and am greatly amused by your posts since you came back to Ireland.

    Surely you had noticed in your annual visits home than Ireland was advancing technologically!! (and that there was a surge in immigration). It can’t be that much of a shock to you!

    The mobile usage is a bit OTT at times, I will agree with you there. It has been a bone of contention between some the my nearest and dearest and I that I am perfectly capable of venturing out with no phone, or indeed, switching it off for days on end.

    The pidgin texting I can never understand. T9 http://www.t9.com should have put an end to all that long ago but many do not use it.

    One thing I will say about text usage in Ireland and the UK and Europe in general is, isn’t GSM great. Isn’t GPRS great. Won’t 3G be great. http://www.3gpp.org and eventually 4G networks that will be coming our way. GSM and the pan European partnership decided upon is something we should all be thankful for.

    Here’s to Europe and it’s GSM, candy bars, not clamshells, personalisation of our mobiles, or handis as the Germans call them. We are light years ahead of US telephony here in Europe and it’s great!

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  2. New Vodaphone stats reported two nights ago–dunno how accurate they are, but they’ve been pretty widely picked up.

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