Laptops, DVRs, iPhones, digital cameras, Facebook, Twitter, Google, iTunes: they've come to define us, and they've come to ruin us. For all of the technology, the constant dick-swinging of newer/faster/cooler and the sheer amount of tools we have to communicate, communication itself has devolved into the worst misinterpretation of carpe diem: all of this now is just condensation, a thin film of nothing that disappears under the heat of day.
We speak in record time, but there's no time to say anything. What we mean means nothing anymore. We're all connected, but we aren't connecting. We're all-knowing know-nothings, no longer content to rely on our brains and our hearts, happy to let tiny boxes tell us how to live because we're too afraid to do it.
If there's a light in this tunnel---LED, natch---it's dim, but it's there. If we stop trading in the currency of cool---time to bankrupt that shit, you guys---we may yet pull ourselves out of this bedazzled, skinny-jeaned mess we've made.
But until we do, we are The Irony Generation, and we are the worst there has ever been.
But first, let's not forget the other thing that came of age with us---the internet. It ruined language. The "uh-oh" of ICQ meant more than a new message---it told you nothing, in the fewest amount of letters. Those who had trouble with "your" and "you're" all their lives no longer had to worry---"ur" would do just fine. LOL, BRB, ROTFL: A shorthand developed, taking punctuation and capital letters with it. When cell phones became text boxes, instant messaging language jumped into our hands, and corporations figured out how best to bilk us for effectively sending telegrams.
Facebook expanded from universities to the world and everyone's lives became open books. (The conspiracy theorists and hippies of generations past wouldn't have stood for it in their day.) Digital cameras were packed inside of cell phones; every moment---no matter how private, banal or incriminating---was game for documentation. News of breakups and promotions was posted before it was told.
Next, the internet ruined music. (Not the music industry---the legs had been wobbling on that decadent beast since the dawn of the compact disc.) MySpace, iTunes, BitTorrent and mp3 blogs changed the way music was consumed, but more importantly, the rate at which it was consumed. The album died and singles danced on its grave. To keep up on the newest stuff became so time-consuming that people actually made jobs out of it---on the internet.
Traditional music media began to tank---the three-month lead for a story in a monthly such as Spin was like a year on the internet, completely out-of-date and disregarded, no matter how revealing the story, how captivating the accompanying photos, how well-crafted the prose.
"Music supervisor" became a sought-after, high-profile job. Bands broke because their songs were played on TV shows or in iPod ads. New artists didn't give a fuck about the A&R guys anymore, they wanted Alexandra Patsavas from The OC in the crowd instead. In a parallel industry, DVD box sets exploded and people stopped watching TV on televisions, skipping network time slots to download shows the next day, store them for later or skip them altogether until the entire season was available in a $50 box.
Irony has its uses---in humour, literature and arguments---but mostly it's empty and, in this age, cowardly, a veil to hide behind because we've all been texted into submission. Our deepest thoughts and feelings go unexpressed under a wave of iPod battles and YouTube links, leaving us a bunch of pointlessly legginged, ugly t-shirted, over-moustached, underfed lemmings---so scared to fall behind, to admit that we haven't heard that song or don't get that reference because it will make people who aren't even our friends think we're not cool enough. We act worldly but never venture outside of our own scenes.
And now, through every fault of our own, this generation has decided that we don't have time to feel. We're too busy indulging in the most disposable lifestyle ever seen upon this earth---while high-horsing green ethics to our elders---and writing hyper-literate lyrics that reveal nothing personal---while eschewing proper music education because it's not cool to, like, try---and buying clothes that have been machine-designed to look torn up and worn, while buying vintage clothes at Value Village. This is a culture of empty hypocrisy, false belief and entitled judgment. With so much effort spent on the outside, there's nothing left for the inside.
But that is bullshit.
It is OK to be sincere. Not earnest (nobody likes a keener) but truth and honesty are all we've got in the dark of night, when the party's over and the machines are charging up for tomorrow. You don't have to like music that's sung by people who can't sing, mumbling over keyboard lines from the '80s---when they were children, if they were alive at all. You don't have to click on every keyboard cat link that's sent to you. You don't have to watch British comedy. You don't have to take pictures of yourself looking like you don't give a fuck.
Athough the tide isn't exactly shifting, it is churning---a riptide of sincerity, if you will. The hype of Vampire Weekend and Cool Kids fizzled out---and are you really going to go see Thunderheist again?---but emotionally fragile, downright beautiful records by Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes not only dominated message-board talk but can still be heard during the chilldown side of a party a year later. Lady Gaga dominates the airwaves now, but even she is in on her own joke---we're not set up for a next Madonna, anyway---and is so aware of her limited shelf life that she's pulling every ridiculous move possible in rapid succession. Autotuned hip-hop is dying out. Vinyl sales have exploded, and while there's an undeniable hipster factor behind its collection, it's hard to fault listeners who want to spend double the amount on a full record---plus flip time---to enjoy the increased sonic palette and oversized artwork.
In Halifax, there are dance nights at bars and plaid shirts buttoned to the top on the hottest nights at Gus', but we're also in the middle of a singer-songwriter renaissance. For every noise band or joke hip-hop group pitched as style over substance, there's a girl with a guitar or a boy with a banjo on a low stage in a quiet room, as basic as music can get, stripped down to the bone. And there's no one there worrying about how they'll look on Facebook in the morning.
You can give a fuck. And you should. Even though we're allowed to self-infantilize a lot longer than generations previous---multiple degrees, multiple jobs, no marriages, no kids, no equity; all this is fine into your 30s now---it doesn't mean we have to be dumb about it. If you're just skimming the surface now, what does it leave you for the future? Sure, five-year plans are out of style and you can stay in school for a decade, but life will catch up to you, and you'll want to know who you are and end up with real relationships when it does.
Ditch irony now---you don't have to mean the opposite. Mean what you mean, and make this worthless generation worth something.
Tara Thorne was never cool in school, if you couldn't tell. She writes and talks for money in Halifax.