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Happy hour is a tapas and chat for us millennials living in the spotlight


'Despite the stark claims of the public health lobby, the current recommended alcohol limits seem unrealistically low.' Stock photo: PA

'Despite the stark claims of the public health lobby, the current recommended alcohol limits seem unrealistically low.' Stock photo: PA


'Despite the stark claims of the public health lobby, the current recommended alcohol limits seem unrealistically low.' Stock photo: PA

New statistics from DrinkAware published last week show that 73pc of Irish people think that binge-drinking is just part of Irish culture, and nearly half of us think it's no big deal.

The survey showed that the demon drink continues to be a big problem, and that a lot of us (though, I suspect, not nearly enough) would like to cut back.

I would have been interested to see the age breakdown for these results, because a lot of information suggests that globally there's one group that seems to be turning away from binge culture. As if I need to tell you, it's that contrary scourge of society, millennials. Full disclosure: I'm one of them.

Three-quarters of us say that we limit how much we drink on a night out and, when it comes to boozing, apparently we put taste and quality over, say, strength - which only 4pc of us care about. I don't think it's just because we're already geed up enough from our five-a-day flat white habit and spirulina smoothies.

Anecdotally at least, it seems to be true that we're far more into our grub than our parents ever were. A great night out is more likely to involve this amaaaazing little Peruvian tapas place that operates out of a storage unit rather than getting bladdered on Blue Nun. I know, we're unbearable.

We know we can't have our gin and drink it, so we'll discuss our favourite botanicals over one, or maybe two, drinks in a hollowed-out grapefruit, or vintage teacup, while saving ourselves for a good feed.

Aside from our notions, there are other reasons why my generation might be turning away from bingeing.

We're the first generation to have been brought up with the spectre of "healthy living" hanging over us: we've known what courgettes are for a long time, it's not cool to hate exercise, and there's no getting around the fact that smoking is just unequivocally bad. And drinking to excess is really not great - we know about the myriad health issues that drinking too much can cause. We haven't had to learn this, unlike older generations: the science has always been there. We have no excuse.

It's been much easier for us to internalise this information because of that. Sure, we get rat-arsed and smoke too much sometimes, but we don't enjoy it in the same carefree way our grandparents could. The bitter taste in our tenth gin and tonic is guilt.

Then there's Facebook. "The Fear" has taken on a whole new meaning in the age of social media. We don't just wake up and worry what we said, or did, or who we tried to have sex with, because it will come up as notifications on our phones.

What would a night out be without a few hundred photos to document it?

We don't just have to worry about passers-by seeing us on the kerb with one tit hanging out, puking into our handbags, but about the friends and strangers who will take out their phone for a picture that will live in glorious immortality online. Apparently one-third of us have suffered social shaming from these kind of pictures appearing online. That seems a very conservative statistic to me, or perhaps I am surrounded by degenerates.

I know us millennials think we have had it worse than our parents but I would like to suggest that when it comes to letting our hair down, we really, really do.

Those of us born after 1990 have had cameras around our entire adult life. Whereas before they came out on special occasions, or holidays maybe, for us they have been ubiquitous. Smartphones have brought the twin evils of cameras and social media. We don't have the luxury of what happens in Vegas, or the Red Lion, staying there.

A younger relative ended up in the Daily Mail a few years ago, dressed as a Star Wars Wookie, imbibing beer through a funnel at his university rugby initiations. Now he's a father starting a nice management consulting job. Luckily, he and his buddies weren't named, because God knows you don't want something like that being the first thing that comes up on Google when prospective employers inevitably look you up. But countless others have not been as fortunate - our youthful (and current) indiscretions can be found by anyone, if they look hard enough. Essentially, we just have to be more careful.

It's a truth commonly acknowledged that millennials are obsessed with themselves. We take selfies, feel entitled to fulfilling work and write self-important opinion pieces about ourselves. However, because of social media and the changing job market, we kind of have to be. This generation has to stay on top of the information available about us online, and that means being aware of our behaviour in real life. Recruitment experts advise us to view ourselves as "brands", and presumably not the kind of brand that involves drunken public urination. For those of us who moderate our drinking, it's because we don't want to lose control.

I can't help but feel that writing off drinking to excess as part of Irish culture is a cop-out, and selling ourselves short. Countless nations - Brits, the French, Russians - see drinking as central to their identity. There's nothing unique or particularly Irish about it. It's more nuanced here, it might be more appropriate to say pubs are linked to Irishness, with the suggestion of good company, conversation, laughter. These are things we pride ourselves on. Pubs and drinking to excess aren't necessarily inseparable.

While us millennials might be turning away from getting lashed on mystery punch in our kitchens before hitting the club, we haven't totally lost it: we like a pint or two in our local as much as our parents. And, of course, next weekend we'll man up and get out of our minds in the name of St Patrick. After all, we're Irish.

Sunday Independent