Posts Tagged hashtag

Twitter & TV: Symbiosis

Television viewership has skyrocketed in recent years. It might seem surprising, but on-demand availability and time-shifted programming (such as ‘+1’ channels), as well as the range of viewing platforms now available has meant that the public can now fit viewing into their schedule better than ever before. On top of this, television is no longer seen as the ‘low art’ it once was; film’s black-sheep baby cousin has grown up and started garnering the attention it deserves.

Shows like Game of Thrones are receiving Hollywood-sized budgets, and others such as Breaking Bad are gaining the kind of universal critical acclaim once reserved for great literature or theatre, and only the greatest of film (see also this article, comparing the show to the fabled Great American Novel.)

Beyond this, the way we talk about television has changed too; it is now impossible to go on Twitter without risking seeing spoilers for your favourite shows. I caught up with the infamous (and controversial) Game of Thrones episode featuring The Red Wedding about three days after it first aired and in that time I had to enter into complete social media lockdown, lest I accidentally stumbled upon a list of who had died…. [SPOILER ALERT] Turned out it was pretty much everyone, so it was almost a waste of time, but that’s beside the point. Twitter has now become the first point of contact for reactions, discussions, news  questions, so much so that shows are being rated not by how many views they receive (incredibly difficult to measure in the age of aforementioned technological advances) but by how much Twitter buzz they generate.

In fact, nowadays it is arguable that you cannot properly engage with television without having a Twitter account. Even some of my more tweet-phobic friends immediately search for trending reactions to certain televisual events: from the last few months the finales of Breaking Bad, Broadchurch and The X Factor spring to mind. Sure, TV events will no doubt receive press coverage, generate Facebook statuses, inspire blog posts, but for immediate, concise reaction and discussion, nobody does it better than Twitter.

The industry is savvy to this fact as well; TV Line founder and CEO Michael Ausiello has nearly 20,000 tweets to his name and over a million followers. Twitter is allowing audiences to engage with television in a way only previously dreamed of. Watching a show is no longer the final step of the experience, we are implored to involve ourselves further in the world of the episode by becoming immersed in the forum surrounding it, and it’s not even a big commitment, you don’t have to have tons of time or a burning passion, just fire off those speedy 140 characters with the right hashtag at the end, read your ‘Trending’ page and you’re done. Suddenly, since Twitter established itself, television viewing has become a richer experience, more social than ever before; where it used to bring the members of your household together, it now brings you together with every other fan of your favourite show who has a Twitter account… Which every true television fan now does.

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The Death of The Watercooler Moment

Nearly ten years ago, two lines of script became part of a shared vernacular for TV fans the world over. Before May 6th, 2004, you could say these sentences and no one would have given you a second glance; after that date, the words became synonymous with true love everlasting, eliciting sighs and squeaks of sentimental warmth from anyone you said them to. Soon after that, you could only get half way through the first line before everyone in the room joined in with you in a moment of joyful nostalgia…

‘No, NO. Did she get off the plane? Did she get off the plane?!’

‘I got off the plane.’

Yes, the final ever episode of beloved US sitcom Friends (spoiler alert, although if you need that I’m going to have to assume you’ve been living under a rock for several years) featured the denouement of the decade-long romantic arc between everyone’s favourite on again/off again TVcouple, Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) and Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston)… And it was a beautiful moment. Perfectly pitched, completely surprising, gorgeously emotive without being saccharine or cloying, it had fans blubbing into their giant coffee cups and got everyone talking. No one could wait until the next day at work to discuss the events, to deconstruct what had happened to the six best friends we had taken into our homes on a weekly basis for ten long years.

But we had to; it was 2004… Doesn’t seem all that long ago, but there was no Facebook, no Twitter, not even everybody had a phone (lovingly called ‘mobiles’) back then. I was 12 and the only way I could get in touch with my friends was via the landline, and only then if no one was using the dial-up internet. This left us with very few options, meaning the accepted method of discussion was to just see everyone and discuss it the next morning. Used commonly in the vernacular back then, the watercooler moment is now demonstrably a thing of the past. Picture Ross and Rachel’s reunion were it to happen in 2013:

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In fact, we don’t have to imagine it… this post sets up Nick (Jake Johnson) and Jess (Zooey Deschanel) of New Girl infamy as the Ross and Rachel of the digital decade. The fact is it’s no longer necessary to discuss…. well, virtually anything, in person anymore. A communal space in which to chat about television, books, films etc, has evolved from the well-worn industrial carpet surrounding the water dispenser into a massive online forum in which to exchange ideas digitally. No one needs to hear your mouth speak the words when you’ve already tweeted, statused and snapchatted about it. So called ‘social’ media actually means that although your opinion reaches many more people than it used to, no real connection is ever actually formed from it. This concept is demonstrated perfectly in this video:

In the digital age, the space our thoughts inhabit is no longer real, at least not physically and as a result the reactionary process our brains undergo is changing. Suddenly, in the space of a decade, reciprocal conversation is becoming a thing of the past; everyone’s talking but no one’s listening.

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