My brother saw Matt Damon in Dalkey the other day. It was a brief and uneventful celebrity sighting - they drove past one another on the road - but it was more than enough to pique my interest when he told me about it afterwards.
"What kind of car was it?" I asked. "Was he driving fast or slow? Was he in good form, do you think?"
Celebrity sightings don't particularly interest me at the best of times, but my brother spotting the Good Will Hunting star was tantamount to him telling me he'd seen a UFO or a moving statue. He had witnessed an apparition in a Ford Fiesta and my world view was irrevocably shaken.
I'm not sure where this sudden fanatical interest in Matt Damon stems from, but I think it's fairly safe to conclude that I'm not alone.
The team from Spin 1038 hunted Damon down with the doggedness of Interpol agents. The burrito chain Boojum is selling 'Matt Damon tacos' inspired by the actor's favourite Mexican recipe. The photograph of Damon carrying a SuperValu bag will go down in the annals of Irish meme history, but our fascination with this story can veer dangerously close to fanaticism at times.
We've become a little obsessed with Matt Damon, in much the same way we've become collectively fixated on a series of predictable, yet inexplicable, lockdown distractions.
It started with Tiger King, which is an undeniably brilliant piece of TV. The cast of characters are stranger than fiction, the plot is a creaking rollercoaster ride and Joe Exotic's shirt collection has to be seen to be believed.
But still, that doesn't quite explain how this show captured the imagination of the masses. Your colleagues watched it. Your mother watched it. Your friend who normally prefers the gentle pace of period dramas watched it.
Tiger King wasn't just another Netflix binge; it was a collective experience. We all spent the early days of lockdown hunkering down with Joe Exotic, but it wasn't long before we were swept up by another global craze: stress baking.
Baking provides comfort and it's only natural that we would want to ease our stress during a time of uncertainty, but that still doesn't explain why banana bread became the most searched-for recipe on Google.
Our obsession with banana bread is still going strong, but it was interrupted by yet another global phenomenon: Normal People. The Sally Rooney adaptation is again an undeniably brilliant piece of television, yet I'm struggling to think of another time in history when we were this emotionally invested in fictional characters.
Whether it's toilet paper, Joe Wicks, Yoga with Adrienne, Dalgona coffee or Woodies reopening, it seems we're all fixated on the same thing at the very same time these days. The question is why.
Cynics would argue that our news feed algorithms are serving us all up the exact same content. This technology is usually tailored to our individual tastes, but after weeks of us all clicking on one topic - coronavirus - our news feeds are beginning to treat us less like individuals with diverse interests and more like a collective consciousness of banana bread enthusiasts.
Psychologists, on the other hand, would argue we're craving the sense of purpose that we used to derive from our daily routines. We're no longer commuting to 9-5 jobs, yet we're all parked on the sofa at the same time every Tuesday night for the appointment television that is Normal People.
We don't know what the future will look like, but we do know that Woodies will be open at 9am and a tin of paint will give us a sense of achievement - even if we don't get around to using it.
Both theories hold a grain of truth, but I much prefer to think that our current obsessions are greater than the sum of their parts. Sure, Matt Damon carrying a SuperValu bag is hilarious, banana bread is delicious and Normal People is the best Irish export since Kerrygold butter, but maybe we're enjoying the collective experience of these cultural moments more than we're enjoying the moments themselves.
We all need entertainment and distraction right now, but we also need unifying, collective experiences. We're leaning into herd mentality because the herd was abruptly pulled apart.