AU MA Social Media

A class blog about social media.

Watching TV with 200 million of your closest friends

Posted by bexmoy on May 28, 2013

Just as essential as the remote control and popcorn when I settle in to watch a sporting event or new episode of whatever show is the main event of my night is Twitter.

I’ve been thinking about this phenomenon in my own life for the past several months. And even before that, I participated in the hashtagged world of TV commentary for at least the past couple years. I can’t pinpoint when it became a habit, but I’m thinking it was likely when I moved in with a group of roommates who had little interest in Gossip Girl. I needed to share my thoughts on the unfolding social crises of Serena and Blair, and Twitter graciously allowed me that outlet.

It is now my habit to check #MadMen during each commercial break. Are my thoughts on par with the rest of the world? Is there something I should have noticed that I missed about the theme of the episode or symbolism in the last scene?

And I cannot even fathom watching a sporting event without Twitter nearby. (This includes when I’m at the game amongst fellow fans).

In addition to the trending topics assuring me I am not alone in this habit, there is also evidence right on my TV screen during everything I watch, from The Today Show (#Today) to Pretty Little Liars (#PLL) to the Red Wings embarrassing the Blackhawks or vice versa (#StanleyCup).

In fact, Pretty Little Liars took some heat last season, when it posted the hashtag #PoorSpencer before the moment of the big reveal, thus lessening the scene’s impact. Similarly, Glee tells fans how to feel and what to tweet throughout an episode. It makes TV interactive; it makes it a shared experience even when you’re watching a show alone.

Once upon a time, fans of a show had to wait to talk about it until the next day at the water cooler or lunch table. Now, it’s instantaneous. Even more impressive in an age where Hulu and Netflix are a normal-but therefore unscheduled-part of people’s viewing habit.

At SXSW, one presenter analyzed how Twitter has changed the way we watch TV. It’s not all shows per say, it’s the ones where something surprising is about to happen—a given every week in Pretty Little Liars, for example (and yes, I know it’s embarrassing that I can speak with authority on this) or during playoff season.

Some of Twitter’s potential influence is possibly limited, however. House of Cards and Arrested Development allow viewers to go at their own pace. No amount of Spoiler Alerts can prevent an accidental reveal of a major event in the plot and a lack of urgency to share every reaction to the show on social media. 

Regardless of its limitations, Twitter’s influence on TV is a powerful tool. After all, it played a part in Arrested Development pick up by Netflix in the first place.



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