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.