Overuse of irony is a symptom of a certain social disease I’ve noticed over the past decade, an interpersonal guardedness in this age of public exhibitionism. Everyone’s speaking tongue-in-cheek, heavy on the sarcasm and cynical observations. Irony isn’t just sprinkled here and there for effect, but entire conversations consist of it, leaving participants feeling heady with their own cleverness, others bemused and apart. I’ve moved in social circles where the least invested, most caustic, coolest and aloof person wins. I’ve lived in places where sincerity is considered a sign of weakness or lack of intelligence. I’ve participated in banter so sardonic it became a quest to force the other to break character first, by saying, “oh, but I’m just kidding!”. As if that even needed to be said. The negative barbs and melodramatic tone obviously indicated from the start that we were all just kidding. Or were we? What is this ironic conversational staring contest really about?
Right now as a culture, we’re in a new space where our lives are lived out in different dimensions–the physical world and online. Personally, who I try to show online is a self who never takes an unflattering photo, who always looks polished, or carefully candid, and only says or shares witty, interesting observations. In person, I sense I come off as an impulsive loud-mouth, always seeking some sort of attention. I won’t take any time discussing my real or imagined physical imperfections, because I strongly advocate putting forth positive body image (or, fuck measuring). My social media outlets, hell, even this blog are places I can tightly control my output, and hopefully manipulate it into something that to me, looks most like who I want to be. It’s both warping and enhancing my real life. When I was a heavy user of irony, it was because it served as a layer of ice between me and other people. By affecting a flat tone and dead eyes, my delivery was highly sarcastic, allowing the listener to assign any meaning they liked. Many times people widened their eyes and said, I can never tell if you’re being serious. Which I loved, because it meant I was throwing shade on the situation, keeping myself invulnerable to scrutiny. It was an insecure move, and hard to shake. It kept me from being known, and knowing the right people.
I want earnest to be the new ironic. I want to see people speaking passionately about their beliefs with each other, allowing themselves to be caught up in the pleasure of caring. I wish to hear people talking openly, honestly and directly. I want to feel like I can say what’s on my mind, plainly, without hiding behind a passive-aggressive veil of sarcasm. I don’t want to censor myself in fear of the walls irony will isolate me within. I want to explore the physical world as a place of honest interaction–not posed banter, like my online life. I think the only way I can start is by modeling how I want to interact, with other people. I’m going to push myself to reveal what’s on my mind, and trust my intuitive sense. I’m not going to worry as much about how I’m coming across, because I’ll be in the moment, paying attention. I’ll risk being open, with emotion in my eyes and voice. I’ll say what I mean, rather than spending my energy twisting the feeling into some ironic charade. Yeah, I’ll joke around with you still, of course. But if I’m speaking on something deep, I won’t be manipulating my speech to match my online persona.