As our last day in Ireland came to a close yesterday, I spent a lot of time looking at the hundreds of pictures I have already taken during the nine days we have been here. We’ve been to big cities, small towns, and mountaintop villages that are hardly towns at all. Media in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have some similarities to media in the United States, however, I’m going to keep my focus on the differences between the two.
‘Send Me On My Way” seemed to be a fitting title for this post not only because I am writing while on a ferry to Holyhead, Wales, but because communication and the ability to send messages was very different here, specifically in Northern Ireland. A majority of the towns we went to were what I would consider to be off the grid. Up in the mountains, or surrounded by fields and bogs, phone service was incredibly hard to come by. When I’m in the United States, driving through a less populated area, I rarely ever lose phone service, yet on this trip there was about a 3 day timespan in which I could not contact my family. Honestly, they were probably happy about it, but that’s beside the point.
In addition to phone service and reception, Wi-Fi was hard to come by in certain areas. Being a trip regarding Mess Media, this was tough. How do we post our daily blog posts without Wi-Fi? How do we look up the course syllabus for guidance on our papers and posts? The past week and a half has made me realize how dependent Americans are on Wi-Fi, internet, and social media. I think every one of us had at least a minor conniption when we realized we couldn’t use our phones for a few days of the trip. God forbid we had to stop living through our cell phone screens for a few days and actually converse and get to know each other! It was actually a blessing in disguise to be phone-less for a while. I could still take pictures, but I also had no social media to distract me from my company and my surroundings, unlike when I am in the States and have my face buried in my phone sending texts and tweets.
Using my phone less, I was more aware of my surroundings, the advertisements around me, and the lifestyles of the locals. Advertising in Ireland did not seem as widespread as in America. There were plenty of tourist attractions that we missed out on or found out about too late into the trip that I would have loved to have gone to. Increased advertising could help out the tourism industry greatly in Ireland, especially in the smaller towns that ended up being incredible. I also noticed that unlike in large American cities, such as New York City and Chicago, the taxis in Belfast and Dublin were not plastered with advertisements for restaurants and clubs. It was nice to not be bombarded with advertisements all the time (is that sacrilegious for an advertising major to say?), though I’m sure it isn’t great for businesses. In the USA, I see “Pure Michigan” and “Visit California” commercials all the time, advertising all of the beauty each state has to offer. More publicity to the small towns in Ireland with beautiful features could help tourism.
There were, however, noticeable advertisements and conversations regarding America and American politics that I found to be interesting. During my time in Ireland, I tried my absolute best to avoid talking to locals about American politics. Safe to say that plan only lasted for about the first 3 hours of the first day in Belfast. Hearing the opinions of locals about American politics, specifically about President Trump, was intriguing to me. I was expecting incredible amounts of anger or disdain towards the United States for the election. Much to my surprise, I talked to a greater number of people who quite like, or at least don’t mind, Donald Trump and his policies. That said, media coverage must not be what I expected it to be over in the United Kingdom. I had myself convinced that foreign news stations would only make a mockery of America and talk about the scandals and controversy surrounding the president rather than his policies. Clearly, I was wrong, because lots of people in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland supported him and did not say anything negative about him.
One aspect of Ireland that struck me as different is how freely Irish people talk about religion compared to people in America. Their communication style is completely different than ours. In America, we try our best to separate church and state, and religion is often a taboo topic. On the other hand, The Troubles broke out in Northern Ireland and the city is divided based on religion. A group of us went to lunch one day at Aether and Echo, a traditional pub in Belfast, and I was beyond excited to see that there was going to be live music. I talked to the drummer for a few minutes before their set, and he seemed to be the punk rock type. Logically, when the band started to play some Catholic rock music, I was floored. I couldn’t imagine the hysterics that would have taken place in America had a Catholic person gone into a bar to sing about the Lord. That would be too restrictive of other’s freedoms and ability to have other beliefs. Ireland is far less diverse than America in terms of religion, but people in Ireland seem to be much more firm in the religious beliefs that they hold.
However, Ireland has used their free speech in similar ways as has the United States has in respect to cigarette smoking. In Ireland, cigarette boxes are plastered with pictures of dying family members or cancerous lungs. This immediately reminded me of the campaigns in the US where people who smoked cigarettes and have had tracheostomies are talking, or people who pay for a pack with their skin or other body parts to symbolize the true cost of smoking.
All in all, even though we didn’t do any site visits to advertising agencies or television broadcasting stations at this stop, Ireland provided many ways to think about media. Advertising was different, cell service was not as widespread due to the abundance of mountains and rolling hills, and people communicated more openly about religion and controversial topics. As I mentioned in my third blog post, “The Rains of Castamere,” I’ve always dreamed of going to Ireland, and I can honestly say that this trip did not disappoint. I fell in love with the scenery and the atmosphere here, and there is still so much more I hope to explore one day in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. Hopefully I’ll return back here one day to make even more incredible memories in run-down hostels out in the Podunk Irish towns that now hold a special place in my heart.
Taking in the view at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.