Wednesday 18 September 2019

Millennial Diary

HERO: David Attenborough
HERO: David Attenborough

Ciara O'Connor

A millennial's relationship with Google is a sacred and beautiful thing; the Google search bar is a safe space for us to ask the questions that we can't ask anyone else, to write the phrases that we dare not speak. Google doesn't judge us; Google, unlike your mother, doesn't make you feel guilty for not knowing what temperature to wash the bed sheets at, or whether it's OK to reheat rice.

That innocuous little white rectangle holds all of our fears, hopes and dreams; show me a millennial's search history and I will show you the millennial. And oh, how millennials showed themselves up in Google's lists of 2018's top search terms.

The data showed that we took our civic duty very seriously this year; the top 'how to' search term was 'how to register to vote' and the top 'what is' was 'what is blasphemy?' - which feels sort of charming in a Catholic country. Perhaps we underestimate the average googler; perhaps it was more of a philosophical inquiry. What *is* blasphemy? What is blasphemy REALLY?

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'What is the Eighth Amendment?' also featured on the list, though no millennial would ever admit to it - we were BORN ready to repeal. What we lacked in political knowledge or experience, we made up for with enthusiasm and witty T-shirts; and who needs education when we can just google 'what is an exit poll?' (number 10 on the list).

In any case, 2018 was the year that Irish snowflakes dragged themselves away from online petitions and got down and dirty with real grassroots activism and parliamentary politics.

Despite overwhelming evidence of the work put in by older feminists to bring about the referendum in the first place, millennials claimed the victory as our own. Though many of our mothers and grandmothers were demanding bodily autonomy for Irish women when we were in nappies, it was us who came along and saved Ireland from the dark ages. Thank God for millennials. The second referendum had some boomers shouting 'political correctness gone mad', but in fairness what could be more snowflakey than getting offended by jokes about a man in the sky who doesn't exist?

The top 10 how-tos will have mammies all over the country tearing their hair out, wondering how they managed to make such a hames of child-rearing. Irish adult-babies were looking up 'how to tie a tie' (presumably for an unemployed LinkedIn profile picture - fake it 'til you make it), 'how to make eggs' (mammies, you've your children completely ruined) and 'claim tax back' (#LifeAdmin #Adulting). With 2018's extreme weather, we also wanted to know how to bleed a radiator; however, surprisingly 'why do you need to bleed a radiator?' and 'what is radiator bleeding?' or 'RAYDIATER BLOOD???' didn't feature.

It was heartening, however, to see that it wasn't all business - depressingly or sweetly, the second highest search was 'how to build an igloo'. Are we a nation profoundly in touch with our inner child, or so arrogant that we believe we can casually google the construction of a paraboloid, warm snow structure refined and perfected by generations of Inuit people over centuries. I'm sure that somewhere on the longer list is: 'Is building igloos cultural appropriation?'

The list also proves that we are fundamentally technological conservatives, with plaintive 'How to Get Old Snapchat Back' and 'How to Turn Off Automatic Updates' coming in at five and six. We don't like change.

The most searched food terms make for entertaining reading; every entry contradicting the entry that came before, revealing a nation confused at best about what it's supposed to be eating: 'Operation Transformation Recipes' is followed by 'Cake recipes', and then 'Healthy dinner recipes,' 'Bread recipes', and 'Weight Watcher recipes'. Honestly, I have probably googled all of these, in this exact order, over the course of a hungover weekend. Obviously, 'vegan recipes' entered the top 10 for the first time ever - this was the year that veganism stopped being simply a weird thing for weird people, and became a sexy moral imperative for any millennial admirer of David Attenborough (all of us). Right after that, however, came 'mince recipes' at number seven. God help us all. Was that blasphemy?

2018 represented the loss of millennial innocence. Facebook betrayed us, harvesting our data for nefarious uses. GDPR filled our inboxes with spam and our hearts with dread about the reams of data out there on us currently being correlated by corporate genetically modified monkeys who will use the information to sell us hoverboards one day. When a new pretender to Instagram's throne launched in March, we malcontents jumped on board in our hundreds of thousands. Within about 24 hours, however, Vero crumbled and the family company that owned it was revealed to have been involved in some fairly questionable practices (there were allegations of unpaid migrant workers living in squalor). Vero disappeared without a trace, and now it's hard to believe it ever happened. But it showed that most of us feel as if we're in an abusive relationship with social media.

This was the year that Ireland's very own Bloggers Unveiled - an anonymous Instagram influencer watchdog and whistle-blower - soared high and ended up too close to the sun, with death threats sent and witch hunts identifying innocents. The account was taken down. But Bloggers Unveiled marked a new era for the Irish Influencers and their followers.

Millennials in their thousands will be resolving to put down their phones and digitally detox this new year - all well and good until we get hungry and need to find out how to boil an egg.

Sunday Independent

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