More specifically, the death of irony.
(for this discussion, you'll notice the terms ironic, sarcastic, and sardonic being treated as synonyms. Yes, I know, there are shades of meaning between these terms, but calm down, Webster.)
Now, this ex-student (whose name I shall withhold here, but for those of you in the know he is best described as a "nihilistic narcissist"--someone who believes himself to be the most important thing in an utterly unimportant universe--which title I bestow upon him in the most loving manner possible.
Anyway, he was saying (he's THIRTY years old!) that when he deals with young folk in the course of his job, he must needs be wary using irony, for two things happen: 1. the youngsters don't generally get irony, and B. He worries he may be recorded and his words and tone used against him.
Now, as an old person, I hadn't thought of the second point. He was saying in our modern culture of faux outrage that people are ACTIVELY LOOKING for things at which to take offense (or at least umbrage) and this, coupled with the ubiquitous recording devices (phones, security cameras, drones), makes irony a very chancy endeavor.
Suppose he says, for example, that he simply LOVES what Miley Bieber or Justin Cyrus is doing musically these days. Clearly, he means this ironically (and sardonically, for if you knew this student, you would know what I mean. He thinks Nathaniel Hawthorne is banal) but if a co-worker were to record him saying so and then post a video of it, out of context, this could appear as if he were sincere. And it would destroy all of his neo-hipster cred (I kid, M.L. I kid because I love.)
So is irony dead? The Daily Show, one might argue, is a bastion of irony, but have we become inured to it?
To put it another way, my ex-student claims that his young friends equate being ironic (or sarcastic, or sardonic) with the internet term "trolling."
As I understand it, "trolling" was not meant to represent the actions of a below-brige-dwelling monster, but in terms of fishing--in fishing, trolling is I believe using one's fishing line in a somewhat lazy manner, simply dropping it in the water with bait while the boat one is on and slowly allowing it to drag behind. But that's neither here nor there.
Trolling in the internet sense is to purposefully post inflammatory comments in order to anger or provoke someone. It is rather different from being ironic, is it not?
So for my student's friends to equate the two would certainly be a bad sign for the future of irony.
But not to worry. Our young people are our future. With their strong sense of purpose and earnest belief in both the institutions of our times and the traditions of those who came before, I have no doubt that the future of America is in excellent hands and their firm and responsible stewardship is close at hand