On Sunday the 24th of April, the 2016 census will take place in Ireland. Currently census enumerators are going door to door around the country, in the schizophrenic weather of the Irish Spring, ensuring each household receives their census forms. The other afternoon my doorbell rang. I was the only one home and clearly wasn’t going to answer it. When I was sure the coast was clear, I checked and found it had just been the lady from the census, who left a note saying she would call back around to drop off our forms another day. What a job. I mean if everyone avoids answering the door to strangers as much as I do it must be an absolute mare. When she did drop the forms in I had a look through; each form has roughly 35 questions per person. Out of those 35, were the census friends with everyone in Ireland on Facebook, they could probably answer at least 23 of the questions without having to take a step out their front door, let alone physically speak to someone. So I gave it a shot! And these are the questions I was easily able to answer from the census form without speaking to a single soul.
Currently I have 616 Facebook friends, so first I took out those who won’t be in Ireland on the night of the census. I was then left with 533 friends.
The first question, I could answer without hassle: everyone’s name. Although you have to negotiate your way around those who put up nicknames or change their name to Irish for privacy reasons, it was still pretty simple.
Question number 2 was Sex. 256 of my Facebook friends were male. 277 Female.
Question 3: Date of Birth, which any seasoned Facebook stalker can find in most Friends bios.
Question 5: Your current marital status. 22 of my FBF are married, with all the rest technically coming under the category of Single as none had been divorced, separated or widowed.
Questions 6-10 are about your place of birth, where you live and where you have lived before. A quick flick through anyone’s Facebook pictures and these questions get answered pretty easily. “Yes, I can tell from your burnt scalp in those pictures of you picking fruit on a sunny farm, you are most definitely Irish and got a work visa for Australia in 2014.”
Question 11 is about Ethnic and Cultural backgrounds. Out of the categories you could chose from on the census form 475 of my FBF are Irish, 27 White, 6 African, 1 Chinese and 4 Other Asian.
Question 13 asks “How many children have you given birth to” 21 of my Female FBF had 1 child, 8 had 2, 8 had 3 and 3 had 4.
Question 14 moves on to languages and asks “Can you speak Irish”. 69 of my FBF can speak Irish (but this number is probably higher than normal because I studied Irish for my Bachelor Degree)
Questions 16 to 18 cover health, and again if you are in anyway a good friend you would know these answers. For the others who you may not be that close to? Just count how many times they have “Checked In” to A&E or complained about the cost of a GPs visit recently and Ta-Dah: There is your answer.
Question 25 asks you to state the highest level of education or training that you have completed, with the answers looking like as follows:
Junior Cert: 4
Leaving Cert: 145
Technical or Vocation: 18
Advanced Certificate/ Apprenticeship: 47
Ordinary Bachelor Degree: 39
Honours Bachelor Degree: 276
And finally, Questions 27-35 ask mostly about employment; your job status and occupation which, handily enough, there is also a section to fill in about employment on your Facebook page. It’s almost as if Facebook knew the questions the Census is looking for answers for.
So, there you have it. Census enumerators around the county come in off the streets. Stick on the kettle, log into your Facebook and find almost all the information you are searching for right at your fingertips. And for those who aren’t on Facebook? Well, do you really exist at all if you can’t prove it on social media?