What started out as a four person Facebook group chat where friends could share their mutual love of cranes – yes, cranes – has become so much more thanks to social media and worldwide crane enthusiasts. It’s a viral sensation. International media outlets, including US website Buzzfeed, have picked up the story.
Just what is the deal with this whole crane thing? Two of the four students responsible are Ardee teenagers so ThisIsArdee.ie sat down with the guys Eolann Aiken and Shane Crossan to find out more.
ThisIsArdee.ie: Hey Eolann and Shane, how are you?
Eolann and Shane:
ThisIsArdee.ie: Okay? So tell us about your Facebook group chat. It’s all about cranes.
Eolann and Shane:
ThisIsArdee.ie: So, you’re people of few words. What made you start this very niche group chat?
Eolann and Shane:
TIA: Guys, seriously. Is this going to be the whole interview?
E and S:
TIA: Do you guys do this in all your interviews?
E and S: No.
TIA: Oh, so you’re talking now?
E and S: Yeah, we’re kidding. Sorry.
TIA: No problem, thanks for chatting to us. So, you’ve set up a Facebook group chat that allows only photos of cranes. There’s no chat, no conversation, no debate over what crane is the superior model. Just photos. What’s this all about?
Eolann: We started it in November. After a few pints in the Headline 57 pub beside Shane’s house, we plucked up the courage to speak openly about our love of cranes. It started with just four of us, then gradually grew and grew.
Shane: Yeah, the 57 beside Griffith College. It has now become a pilgrimage to the Headline for crane lovers.
TIA: Why did you guys feel the need to pluck up the courage to talk about your love of cranes? Were you closet crane lovers?
Shane: I think it started when I brought up the topic of cranes and all their beauty and mystery. I often shared some thoughts on cranes with people, like “Have you ever even seen a crane being transported, or assembled?” or “How “many crane operators do you ACTUALLY know?
Eolann: Once we started talking we all realised that we were all very intrigued by the great mystery that cranes possess. They are ethereal beasts.
Shane: No one truly took these questions seriously until the forefathers opened up to my crane enthusiasm and we made the group.
TIA: The forefathers are Shane, Eolann, Zoe Holman and Bronagh Kelly. You all share this – admittedly niche – interest in cranes. Where did it come from? Is it a childhood thing or more recent?
Eolann: I think it’s been underlying for quite a while, but only became more prominent after that faithful night in the Headline.
Shane: For me, it was around this time last year when I was in Morocco and when I was asleep in the car, everyone started screaming in excitement and woke me up so that I could look at all the cranes in the distance. They were genuinely excited for my reaction.
TIA: What excites you about cranes? Crane operators are men of great power. Does fascination stem from that?
Eolann: They can lift more than 18 metric tonnes. Power.
Shane: Crane operators live in big metal machines lifting crazy stuff way above the earth. And they’re named after a fecking giant bird. Here here. Power, indeed.
TIA: We can see from your photos that at home in Ardee you’ve taken a great interest in the cranes at the new build at Ardee Community School. Do you get a kick out of seeing a crane in it’s glory in an place so integral to your formative years?
Eolann: Yeah! I think that shot does certainly create some emotions for me due to its metaphorical value. We have got some great shots our our newly erected Ardee crane, actually.
Shane: Not that I’m excited about the town being a building site for a while but just that the town can be lucky enough to witness such a magical and emotional sight.
TIA: That’s great.
Shane: I like new cranes, in new places. And when different crane companies come into the mix, that’s a whole new thing.
TIA: Let’s talk about the group. How many members are currently in the group?
Eolann: I think we have close to a hundred if not more.
Shane: We actually counted a week ago and it only had 30 people in it but now it’s just randomly grown, and that’s with people now out of the convo.
TIA: I know you don’t allow comments or chat in the group. What made you land at that decision? Is it so the cranes aren’t smothered in a smog of chit-chat and conversation?
Shane: I think yeah, definitely so we can just focus on the pictures of the cranes themselves. I detest group chats that are just a never ending stream of messages so it’s nice to just have a group where we can literally just send in pictures and not have the obligation of replying to something that doesn’t warrant a reply.
Eolann: I think it’s because conversation would dilute the mystery.
TIA: It always comes back to the mystery, doesn’t it?
Eolann: It’s also like when you hear The Beatles talking about the meaning of one of their songs, it ruins it because you have already came up with your own interpretation, which is often more reflective of your own life experiences.
TIA: A big part of how the group has captured people’s imagination the world over is the rule that you cannot say anything in the group chat. Members are only permitted to post photos of cranes. How often are you having to discipline members who insist of conversing or commenting? Does that invoke a mandatory removal?
Shane: Well, it’s amazing really. All the rules have just passed via word of mouth, but there are people from the US in the group so I don’t know how they’ve learned the rules. Other people – the laymen of the group, civil servants if you will, the true crane lovers – they also act as admins I guess because they know the rules and don’t tolerate it.
TIA: You had to remove your own father didn’t you Shane? There are no exceptions.
Eolann: Unfortunately, even the father and son bond doesn’t protect Rate My CRANE removal.
Shane: I had to throw that boy out straight away. He is begging me to bring him back so I did. I’ve started dishing out 3 day suspensions to my close friends if they speak or act out.
Eolann: Everyone gets a second chance, no one gets a third.
TIA: That’s fair, you have to have some kind of disciplinary procedure otherwise the whole thing is undermined.
Shane: We’ve been described as compassionate folk, though ruthless. What would you think is a good disciplinary action for the crimes against the cranes, TIA?
TIA: We don’t feel it’s our place to say, but we think you’re being more then generous with giving people a second chance. They know what they’re getting into.
Eolann: I think so too. Unfortunately, there is a certain level of politics- it’s tough to maintain a liberal crane society.
TIA: The group is called Rate My CRANE – are people coming into the group and rating them, thus breaking the rules? Is the ‘rating’ supposed to be an internal thing? Something for each individual to ponder in quiet solitude?
Eolann: All art is subjective and cranes are no exception. We do use the reacts however, so that adds another dimension.
Shane: We’ve only allowed the react system as there was no way for us to monitor it all, and really, we couldn’t be bothered with that. It’s fun anyway.
TIA: 306 crane photos have been uploaded to the group since November. That’s impressive.
Shane: NOT ENOUGH.
Eolann: But a hell of a lot.
TIA: Are all the photos taken by members? Or can you upload an image of a nice crane you’ve seen somewhere else?
Eolann: No internet pics but I mean if someone was to share a pic that their granddad took or someone close to them with no internet access that would be perfect. Or no Facebook access to be more accurate. It’s all about spreading the crane love.
Shane: We’re not fussy as long as it’s shared with good intentions. People like to send in old photos from like their Instagram and screenshot it.
TIA: That’s the best way to do it, we’d say. You don’t want to deny some well deserved crane love.
TIA: How does someone join the group? Are there many people who merely join just to look and appreciate? Like the sort of people who are always on Instragram but never post to it. They like to browse.
Eolann: Yeah we have a lot of non-posters. They don’t tend to leave so I presume they enjoy it. Maybe they are just shy folk and I respect that.
Shane: 306 isn’t loads which means posting is quite sporadic, it’s nice because the chat hasn’t got annoying.
Eolann: I had a girl from Arklow text me personally yesterday asking to get in, but she had to prove herself first with three photos that represent her emotional response to the sight of a crane.
Shane: Yeah a guy from Seattle messaged me on Twitter. He sent me great crane pics so I let him in. Usually we just tell people about the group and they think it’s gas or are really shocked that we love cranes too. So, we just add them in. Basically, you gotta know someone in the group to get in first.
TIA: So, in seven months you went from four members to 30 – and now you’ve enjoyed a 300% increase in the last week. What do you attribute that to? Has Twitter (see below) just blown up for you? Hugh Carr’s tweet had over 10,000 interactions.
Shane: If I’m honest it just blew it up because of the goddamn millennials.
Eolann: Not many more people got added since the Twitter thing actually- maybe only 10 or so. We didn’t expect it to be popular, it’s hilarious that it is though.
There’s a group chat on Facebook where you are only allowed to send photos of cranes and if you type anything you’re removed, it’s ruthless pic.twitter.com/ftkUTKPMQh
— Hugh Carr (@hughcarrhere) May 27, 2017
me and my friends created a groupchat to send eachother pictures of cranes why are journalists now talking to me about it
— zoë (@zoewithumlauts) May 29, 2017
TIA: Buzzfeed came calling. What was your reaction to that? You’re just some guys who like cranes.
Eolann: We didn’t expect it to be popular, it’s hilarious that it is though.
Shane: A great day for the parish!
TIA: Before we finish, we feel obliged to ask you this – who is your favourite Crane brother? Frasier or Niles?
Shane: Hahaha! I like the nephew Frederick (Frederick is actually Frasier’s son with ex-wife Lileth. Both Frasier and Lileth were regular characters in the 1980s NBC sitcom Cheers, before the Frasier spinoff began in 1993).
Eolann: I haven’t seen it.
TIA: Good answers. Great to chat to you guys!
E and S: Thanks TIA!
If you want to be added to the Rate My CRANE Facebook group chat, contact Eolann, Shane, Zoe or Bronagh on Facebook.