Remember the good old days, when you'd watch TV, then think about it a bit, then perhaps discuss it the next day at work around the water cooler? Now that's not nearly enough. While watching TV, you must read everyone's live tweets about the show, then watch the after-show about the show, then hashtag all your thoughts about the show, then read all the blog recaps about the show, then tweet about the recaps.
A couple of years ago, during the first Golden Globe Awards after Twitter had become pervasive, I tweeted, “Twitter just became this big weird room where everyone watches television collectively.” While that statement today seems ludicrously obvious, in January 2011 it seemed like something worth observing, and it struck a chord, getting a couple hundred retweets and replies.
Now, much of what Twitter is about is consuming media together — Twitter is where I get almost all my news and is the main place I find stories to read. And it's also a place where people watch TV together, during the Golden Globes, the Super Bowl and every other day of the week, depending on what your favorite shows are.
My feed is about 75% food people, and so I used to brace myself every Wednesday for the Top Chef glut, when my Twitter feed fills up with random observations about the show, some from the judges I follow and many from people watching, most of whom I don't know but who have been retweeted by others watching. Fine, whatever, stop whining and don't look at Twitter on Wednesdays (from 7 p.m. PST, when the show airs on the East Coast, until 11 p.m., when it's over in California). Now, with The Taste airing on Tuesdays, another evening is ruined. The Taste now even has something called a “live tweet challenge.” I don't know what it is, but it sounds like Tuesdays are out for me as well.
Tony Bourdain was actually one of the first to live-tweet his own show and do it well. You could follow along with him while watching No Reservations and get insights and behind-the-scenes extra tidbits. It was slightly annoying if you weren't watching, but not too bad. But with The Taste and often Top Chef, tweets look more like this:
What does that mean? Does all of this actually make people more likely to watch the show? Is that actual conversation? And if so, is it a conversation I'd like to be a part of? No. No, it is not.
I get it, it's interactive, it's like being in the middle of a conversation about a show with the actual people on the show. But for me, it has the opposite effect. I was tempted to watch The Taste; I'm a fan of the majority of the judges, and yet all the #teamludo nonsense on Twitter turned me off — way off — before it even aired, and I've never tuned in.
The thing about Twitter is that most obnoxious behavior usually edits itself out. It's like a study in social media Darwinism — the hive responds swiftly. If you shill too much, you lose followers; if you retweet every nice thing everyone ever says about you, you lose followers. Most people respond to this by stopping said obnoxious behavior (or maybe they don't and I just haven't noticed because I stopped following them — I'm looking at you, Rick Bayless). But this particular obnoxious behavior is only on the increase.
People have proposed this before, but the next great Twitter step forward will be the hashtag opt out, the scheduled temporary unfollow. In the meantime, Twitter and television will continue to ruin one another. Harrumph.
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