Part of the ongoing attempt to make the '90s revival happen (it won't happen) has been to emphasize the tone of cynicism, sarcasm, and irony within youth culture of the time, specifically the grunge / alternative / slacker sub-culture.
Not that there isn't a grain of truth to that picture, but what was new and distinctive of the '90s was that this tone permeated the sub-culture's view of everything — not only was the overhyped cut down to size, so were the things that ought to have been respected, even by the sub-culture's own standards. Fuzzy '60s-era utopianism was met with only a cold raised eyebrow, but so too was any practical and non-ideological attempt to make things better. "Whatever" was the answer to, well, whatever. The tone was more nihilistic and disillusioned than merely ironic.
In contrast to the across-the-board sarcasm of the '90s, teenagers in the '80s reserved their eye-rolling for only what was pretentious. Funny as it may seem, the most visible — and audible — pioneers in this trend were the Valley girls, not proto-hipster wannabes. Some little nerdlinger presumes to ask out one of the cute popular girls: "Oh I'm like so sure!" Some aging hippie teacher tries to work her students up into a burst of cleansing synchronicity: "Ugh, get a job."
Barf me out.
Gag me with a spoon.
Fuck me gently with a chainsaw.
Those teenagers still felt enthusiasm for what truly deserved it — and not just bitchin' camaros, bodacious bods, and totally tubular tunes. Letting your guard down and sharing your life with friends, and belonging to an active social scene, were still earnest and sincere pursuits. This distinguishes the zeitgeist from one of "kill yr idols."
The tone of youth culture in the '80s, then, was fundamentally one of stabilization — letting the air out of the over-inflated, while showing appreciation for what we have taken for granted.
During the '90s, this would devolve into cutting down everyone and everything, reflecting the shift from an outgoing to a cocooning social mood. Now, it was all about the lone individual who was so much more world-weary than every other individual, and too cool to need to belong to a group with others, who would probably not be as stylishly aloof as he was anyways.
Generation X is unfortunately remembered more for their '90s nihilism, when their formative years were just as much a part of the eye-rolling Valley girl '80s.
They themselves remember growing up in the '80s, but the Boomer incumbents who write the official histories in the mass media have emphasized the anti-utopian 'tude of the '90s instead because it serves as a better foil for their own generation's identity as '60s idealists. And the airhead Millennials who drive traffic on BuzzFeed, Upworthy, etc. latch on to the slacker / alterna phase of Gen X because they're obsessed with their own origins as '90s kids, and are incurious about the time before they were being doted on as babies.
But the X-ers were sarcastic way before it was cool.