September 30, 2013
Note: There are no spoilers in this article.
If you have been watching Breaking Bad, you were likely glued to your television to witness some epic plot twists and a heck of series finale. I won't go into more detail, because, unlike you, I have not seen it yet.
I am one of those people without cable. I download everything. Legally. I will be waiting until it arrives on Netflix or I finally cave and pay for an iTunes download of the final few episodes. I watch all of my television programming via iTunes or Netflix (and occasionally via antenna).
I am not alone.
Many of us watch TV through downloads or streaming, legal or otherwise, and those of us with cable often save shows to our PVRs for enjoyment at our convenience.
We are no longer bound to the programming schedule of broadcast executives. We can watch our shows whenever we damn well please!
And this is exactly the problem; we watch things when we want to watch, not when everyone has been told to watch. It makes it tough the next day around the water cooler at the office to discuss your evening activities because who knows what your coworkers have been watching.
Several years ago I heard about a show called The Wire. I decided to give it a shot and started watching. I was hooked. I plower through five seasons of hourlong episodes in a few short weeks. I kept asking my coworkers "Have you seen this show? It's amazing; honestly the best thing I've watched". Slowly, but surely, they started to watch—at their convenience. I knew they were watching because lines from the show started showing up in conversation. I could pinpoint the season they were on by the things they said at work.
Slowly the water cooler became a place of conversation again. Cautious conversation, mind you; we didn't want to spoil the program for anyone who hadn't caught up.
Today we have social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. If we haven't caught up on Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, or even the last episode of the Bachelor we log in apprehensively and anxiously scroll through our timelines watching out for land mines that might blow up in our face, ruining the episode we have yet to see.
This common pastime of evening boobtube viewing is no longer common ground for small talk when we arrive at the office the next day, yet for many of us, it is the only thing we've accomplished between shifts. It leaves us with little left to talk about with our peers.
Broadcasters know they are losing their audiences to digital downloads; why else would they create sites like Hulu, or license their programming to iTunes and Netflix? Yet, despite this knowledge that we no longer watch TV when told to, they are trying to leverage social media to bring us back. Competition shows like American Idol (among many others) flash hashtags across the bottom of the screen to ensure that we all tweet the same trend. To some effect, it works—after all, not everyone records their shows for later—sometimes we just have to watch right now!
Award shows fill my Twitter feed to the point where I have to log off for the evening (I hate award shows). Some things, it seems, are ripe for social media. We love using our digital soapbox to denounce our idols.
We love TV and we love social media, but we can't seem to find a way to make them work well together, except for the occasional Sunday night celebrity celebration. We need to find a way to make our watch-when-we-want viewing habits and sync them with our right-here-right-now social media streams.
Whomever works that one out will end up a very rich person; and I will be able to log in to Facebook with a sinking feeling in my stomach.