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Does Snark Help Us Deal With Everyday Life?

The Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll
Henry Holiday
Wikimedia Commons

One particular form of irony that deserves special attention is snark--the cutting sort of sarcasm common to virtual spaces from Facebook to Reddit and back again.

We may at one time have attributed the urge to be snarky to good, old-fashioned wit. History tells us that the insults thrown around in society gatherings in the drawing rooms and at the dinner tables of the elite were just as sharp as today's snark, though they may have been more clever.

Now, the ubiquity of online interactions has brought snark literally into our pockets. What might once have been laughed off as good-natured ribbing is now both constant and very personal. We seldom segregate our social media spaces from our personal spaces, so we have a sense that other people's sarcasm can never be avoided.

But there's part of me that says we welcome snark. We love to dish it out, after all, and snark often sums up the sort of cynicism necessary to survive in an age in which satire is constantly superseded by the absurdity of the facts at hand. So rather than lament snark, we might do well to see it as a barometer of the rising tide of desperation in a world in which consumer choice has replaced opportunity, in which performance reviews have replaced compassion.

Lael Ewy is a co-founder and editor of EastWesterly Review, a journal of literary satire at www.postmodernvillage.com, and a writer whose work has appeared in such venues as Denver Quarterly and New Orleans Review and has been anthologized in Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh.