Sunday 18 August 2019

Ciara O'Connor: Millennial Diary

Yewande Biala
Yewande Biala

Ciara O'Connor

You, blinded by thousands of years of an agrarian calendar based on the natural world, may think that summer is starting some time at the end of the month. You'd be wrong: summer starts tomorrow, when ITV says it starts - because Love Island 2019 is kicking off.

The build-up has not enjoyed the same innocent exuberance as last year, when bikini-clad girls standing in a line being chosen by baby-oiled men like a Las Vegas bordello still represented an Edenic ideal. In the 12 months since, it's become obvious that appearing on the show might not be great for one's mental health.

Despite Caroline Flack making the very compelling point in an interview last week that blaming the TV show made her "really really angry" because it's actually "blaming people and their jobs" (both "people" and "jobs" being famously morally untouchable), ITV has been desperately scrambling to make this series ethically viable. Producers confirmed that they would be offering extensive care before, during, and after the show, including therapy, social media training and financial management. All contestants, they promised, will work with GPs and psychological consultants to ensure they are mentally robust enough to take part.

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Judging from the pre-show interviews with the new cast, this appears to mean people who do not enjoy the full range of human emotions, including uncertainty, sadness, and self-awareness. Obviously, it's brilliant.

So enjoy today, while we in Ireland can still be straightforwardly proud of our contribution to this year's cast: Yewande Biala, a 23-year-old scientist (a scientist) from Dublin. I'm sure she's a lovely girl, but let's face it: no one survives Love Island without mortifying their friends, family, town, entire gender and country. We're behind you Yewande! For now.

*******

Well, millennials, I hope you're bloody happy. We've really gone and done it now: Boots is looking at closing hundreds of its shops and, like most modern tragedies, it's probably all our fault.

It is being stoical about it, saying that it is ''regenerating'' and ''modernising'' and ''boosting its relevance''. It is digitising its club card scheme, but millennials were perfectly happy keeping all their receipts with the idea of handing them over to their mothers to bring back to the store with their card to get the points. No one ever, in the history of Boots, has followed through with this plan but that's not the point: that mix of low-level panic and guilt every time we're asked, ''and do you have a clubcard?'' while buying a tanning mitt is the very beating heart of high street shopping.

Imagine a world without Boots: without ''Here come the girls'' and a wallet full of unsolicited No7 vouchers; without running in for a couple of last-minute suncreams and a mini shampoo and wondering how it comes to €100; without it being infuriatingly cheaper to buy four packs of cotton wool than one; without a one-stop shop for body glitter, Canesten, and a ham-sandwich meal deal.

It doesn't bear thinking about. On behalf of internet-shopping millennials everywhere: we're sorry, Boots. Give us one last chance, because we like you, very much, as you are. Not more contemporary, not rejuvenated, not with 200 closed shops. Just as you are.

*******

Just 24 hours ago, I didn't know who Lewis Capaldi was. Strange to say, then, that my new favourite hobby is putting ''Lewis Capaldi looks like'' into the Twitter search bar and seeing what comes up. The brutal creativity of the internet is its greatest asset in these dark days of data mining and privacy breaches, and the rotund young Scot who looks in desperate need of a good scrub and some vitamin D supplements, is its perfect target. And he knows it.

The 22-year-old singer songwriter currently occupies the number one spot in the charts with this year's fastest-selling album, the accurately titled Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent. His music is Sheeran-levels of aggressive blandness; the auditory equivalent of mini rice cakes.

But it's his anti-marketing marketing that's put his name on the lips of every millennial desperate to hold on to their fading relevancy. Capaldi understands the internet; videos that make you feel like you're in on a private joke abound - ''Lewis Capaldi experiments with ASMR'', ''Lewis Capaldi does work experience in Greggs'', ''Lewis Capaldi Tries A Mac N' Cheese Pizza'' or ''Lewis Capaldi responds to mean tweets''.

On the face of it, this YouTube presence is a kind of apology for his boring music; but this foul-mouthed dragged-through-a-fence-backwards persona has a blandness all of its own. Leaning in to being undateable is hardly new - though obviously teenage girls, the greatest and purest force for good on this green earth, still fancy him.

Unfortunately, no sooner had this millennial got to grips with Capaldi than I realised his own Gen Z appear to find him rather tiresome and a bit of an embarrassment. The quest for relevancy continues.

*******

This week's ''Hell in a Handcart'' award goes to Pokemon, which announced its new venture last week, Pokemon Sleep: a game that "aims to turn sleeping into entertainment by having a player's time spent sleeping, and the time they wake up, effect the gameplay".

Because who hasn't lain in bed at night, trying to sleep, thinking, ''if only I was more entertained right now''? Millennials grew up with Pokemon, which hit its peak at a very formative time in our lives - it, Harry Potter, and the global recession, can be credited with turning us into the weirdos we are today, with a passion for accruing meaningless intangible achievements and virtual objects.

A few years ago, Pokemon Go got millennials out of the house, walking around, and talking to strangers for the first time in their lives; now, Nintendo seems to be setting its sights on making us fully functioning adult humans by encouraging us to sleep.

It might be on to something: we could have ''Pokemon Eat Your Greens", ''Pokemon Drink Water'', maybe even ''Pokemon Stop Taking Cocaine At The Weekends''.

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