Christy Wampole’s How to Live Without Irony is one of my favorite essays I’ve read lately. Here’s her advice on performing an irony self-assessment:
Here is a start: Look around your living space. Do you surround yourself with things you really like or things you like only because they are absurd? Listen to your own speech. Ask yourself: Do I communicate primarily through inside jokes and pop culture references? What percentage of my speech is meaningful? How much hyperbolic language do I use? Do I feign indifference? Look at your clothes. What parts of your wardrobe could be described as costume-like, derivative or reminiscent of some specific style archetype (the secretary, the hobo, the flapper, yourself as a child)? In other words, do your clothes refer to something else or only to themselves? Do you attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or ugly? In other words, is your style an anti-style? The most important question: How would it feel to change yourself quietly, offline, without public display, from within?
I have been intending for quite awhile to write something about the dangers of irony. Perhaps at one time “hipster mustaches” were an ironic commentary on absurd facial hair, but now they’re a faddish fashion choice. Likewise, perhaps people started drinking PBR because they were making an ironic commentary on being “broke,” but now they drink it because it’s the cheapest beer most bars serve. How many people wearing trucker hats know why they’re called trucker hats?
I’ve observed the effects of overuse of irony on myself. I often catch myself unconsciously using slang that I once used to ironically skew people I see on TV. The line between irony and sincerity blurs as people repeat behavior that they began as a joke. The journey from making a joke and becoming a joke is a short one. Just ask anyone with an ironic tattoo.