Understanding Gen Z: Meta-irony and Postmodernism
Updated: Jun 22
My last article explaining the Post-ironic humour often employed by Gen Z unexpectedly gained a significant amount of traction to which, I'm sure you can imagine, has come as an invigorating pat on the back.
If you haven't read it you should do so before reading on the link is here.
It's truly rewarding to contribute information for free that really is of value to people, so much so that it got picked up by the academic community! I finally understand why people edit Wikipedia articles!
One of the responses I received was from a student from the notable Urban School, San Francisco. They proposed a deeply insightful and interesting question:
"Did meta-irony come from postmodernism? I'm asking because they both try to challenge the idea of universal truths. Meta-irony does it through pointing at something and letting the consumer of the art apply their subjective framework to what they see. Similarly, postmodernists say "truth is relative".
The following is an open response:
Excellent, excellent question.
As you have identified, postmodernism challenges the idea of universal truths and meta-irony certainly seems to at least question them. Meta-irony seems to act as a covert tool to ‘test the water’s of what one believes or perceives but can often time be between the objective and subjective.
Consider phenomenon’s such as the online ‘flat Earthers community. Many individuals on these forums may claim to be there ironically but are indistinguishable from the real users themselves. This meta-irony stands to ask not only the question: do we know these people actual flat earthers? But more: do they even know if they’re flat earthers.
This quantum state of truth along with the anonymity of online forums serves as Schrodinger’s cat for sincerity – existing in both states simultaneously able to be either, based on the outcome of the observation.
Whether employed by younger generations who are under almost constant self-surveillance from social media or artists attempting to provoke thought, this serves as a function to push the boundaries of thought in a time where the scrutiny of public opinion weighs heavy.
Post-modernism seeks to challenge the universal truths but still often presents its own subjective truths where meta-irony points only at its self and seems to largely come from confusion of the truth, perhaps intentionally or perhaps not.
Ultimately, post-modernism seems to born from the same place as meta-irony but it’s hard to say whether meta-irony is a product of post-modernism, a reaction to it, or simply is a simultaneous occurrence.
How my answer probably feels^ (sorry!)
What's interesting to me is that regardless, we have reached a point where our current digital social paradigm allows, and sometimes demands, a quantum state of communication. Analysis of this is akin to theoretical quantum physics and offers about as much certainty through observation.
Gen-Z are black belts in this conversational karate. To find out how we can help you implement this into your next marketing campaign, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure to follow me on LinkedIn to stay up to date for when I post my hot takes on bleeding edge questions.