Recently I have been attempting to limit the amount of time spent looking at screens on a daily basis as an attempt to increase the amount of things seen, conversations had and moments enjoyed. However one screen I have become extremely familiar with is my iPad, more specifically the iBooks application. Recently I came across a quote from a David Foster Wallace essay about ‘U.S. Fiction and Television’ that stuck with me:
“And make no mistake: irony tyrannizes us. The reason why our pervasive cultural irony is at once so powerful and so unsatisfying is that an ironist is impossible to pin down. All U.S. irony is based on an implicit “I don’t really mean what I’m saying.” So what does irony as a cultural norm mean to say? That it’s impossible to mean what you say? That maybe it’s too bad it’s impossible, but wake up and smell the coffee already? Most likely, I think, today’s irony ends up saying: “How totally banal of you to ask what I really mean.” Anyone with the heretical gall to ask an ironist what he actually stands for ends up looking like an hysteric or a prig. And herein lies the oppressiveness of institutionalized irony, the too-successful rebel: the ability to interdict the question without attending to its subject is, when exercised, tyranny. It is the new junta, using the very tool that exposed its enemy to insulate itself.”
While Wallace is referring to the irony of television’s pervasiveness in contemporary culture and its subsequent effects on human social structure what stood out to me was the notion that “it is impossible to mean what your say” and that anyone who attempts to confront someone about what they mean is often looked at in a negative light. Working with kids both in America and in Ireland I have noticed a trend in glorifying people who “don’t care” and make light of the seriousness around them as to say it doesn’t affect them. This is incredibly troubling to me because growing up in a society where hard work and honesty is being pushed out of the forefront will only create a generation of people not primed to continue progress. Seeing people act is if things do not bother them, not confronting emotions because they think ironically facing problems is a more apt approach will only stunt future human cohesiveness. In a time when tensions are rising and inequality is apparent I think the best way to move forward would be to reject the idea of acting ironically and promote communication and confronting emotions. Once we accept ourselves and the struggles we face then we will be able to have a more meaningful conversation with one another and the more meaningful conversations we have the better we will be able to work as a society. So in my effort to reduce my dependence on technology I plan to have more meaningful conversations that will allow myself and others to stop glorifying ironic existence and emotional avoidance in the hopes to spread acceptance and the importance of honesty, both with our neighbor and ourselves.