Hello, netizens! I’ve had a good week, I must say. I watched The Winter Soldier (my sexuality has since changed to Chris Evans’ biceps), I made distinct advances towards actually having a future (and some money), and today, I started reading 1984. It is a combination of that last thing, plus this article
, that gave me the push for today’s post. (Disclaimer: my ideas on the subject are less militant than that article’s.)
Our lives today are connected via the enormous reach of the internet. We are, in effect, connected across time and space, as one single organism, via the nodes of servers and satellites that lazily orbit the crucible of Planet Earth, like one massive neuron, and one ripple in one corner sends shockwaves of impulses all over. The internet is a whole ‘nother society in the clouds, and as such, cannot be exempt to the laws of social interaction. The watchword of society has always been conformity- in the animal kingdom, codes of behaviour and obedience to them rules roost. Amazingly enough, for something that is omnipresent and all-pervasive, conformity is a highly paradoxical concept- it contains, in one word, a strangely abstract and continuously fluctuating concept that is enforced by a rigid code of rules of action and thought. The Internet takes this apparent contradiction one step further- it professes to be entirely different, an independent platform where each individual’s voice may be heard- but of course, reality is far from it. Behaviour and speech on the internet is as rigidly controlled by a rapidly forming patrician group, as it was in, say, Wilde’s London Society- and funnily enough, it uses much the same weapons as well. I’m referring to the epidemic infecting netizens, called irony.
I’m not completely sure why this trend of “ironic appreciation” makes me so uncomfortable- after all, some of my favourite Youtubers including Dan Howell (danisnotonfire) are self-professed kings of it. Perhaps it’s the idea that somehow, somewhere, sarcasm nibbles away at the solemnity necessary to feel pure emotions- whatever they may be. The most annoying part is that I genuinely appreciate ironic humour. I love Wilde and Saki, I enjoy Youtubers such as Tomska, Christopher Bingham and Jack Howard whose work thrives on the concept, and I spend most of my time on Tumblr wishing I was born with the gift of sarcasm that can turn angry retorts into legendary one-liners. But when the gift of sarcasm starts ruining the principle of sincerity, of honesty in feeling, thinking and speaking, that’s when i know that I’ve got a problem on my hands.
A few months ago- before October 2013, in fact, I would not have understood the idea of irony. That’s not to say I did not perceive it- it was simply an alien thing that I disdained and, therefore, underestimated, kind of like Voldemort with the power of a mother’s sacrifice. Like with Voldemort, this later came back to bite me in the ass- I had failed to grasp the dark glamour of sounding intellectually nihilistic, critical and aloof, and had therefore fallen prey to it. For a month or two, I believed irony to be the height of intellectual achievement, and then one day, I suddenly realised that while I was busy conforming to the prevalent online trend, nothing remained in the trend to aspire to- it was not dominated by free-thinking individuals desiring to make some noise; it was merely a herd of lemmings hurling themselves into the abyss of hypocrisy and arrogance. More importantly, I was slowly being removed from me and myself. The passionate girl who loved without reservation, no longer remained- only a cynical, sarcastic shadow was left.
The problem with intellectual, or indeed any trends that slowly develop into fashion and, ultimately, style, is that after the first wave of founders, the ones that follow are merely mimics, imitators who are trying to sound like people they admire, and there is an inherent pathetic quality in the hollow, blind, cringing servitude to vanity that makes me shudder. Any intellectual wave that starts a sub-culture inevitably becomes mainstream, at which point the whole reason for the trend to have existed is lost- it is no longer a reaction against rules of conformity set by society; it is, instead, the rule that one must conform to in order to be accepted. And so the wave rolls on- from reaction, to acceptance, to mass, to hatred and vehement, vindictive burial of wave after wave of fashions- the Spirits of Generations becoming Ghosts of the Past.
I have no doubt that the same thing will happen to our current Zeitgeist of irony- the cycle of history and culture is inescapable, as much as we like to believe that we are the first generation to break it. However, the resilience of this particular spirit lies in its strangely dualistic nature- at what point does pure humour, just plain old fun, become irony? Is it when an inherent sense of arrogance seeps into it? But then, isn’t criticism healthy for society? But surely that cannot be true for criticism that only seeks to destroy and ridicule, and rings hollow, and exists for the sake of sounding fashionable, rather than remedying a wrong? But how do we identify one kind of criticism from another, and one kind of irony from the rest- in short, how do we seek out the philosopher from amidst the fools? There is, after all, a very fine line between them.
Someday, when I’m older and more experienced, perhaps I’ll figure that out. But for now, I have decided to give the attempt of conforming to the Zeitgeist of our generation a rest. It scares me and makes me uncomfortable. I’m very much isolated, as a result, but hey, at least I’m still me. Completely non-ironically.
Look, a cute duckling! (It’s a metaphor for me)
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