(Originally on the SeeSaw blog RIP)
Before I approach the subject at hand, let’s go back a bit when Twitter was just a twinkle in Jack Dorsey’s eye.
Back in 1996 my gadget-mad father thrust open the door of our basement flat with such force that the very foundations began to shake. He was grinning like a maniac and flushed with excitement.
‘This is going to change everything.’
And then he placed down – on top of the Barbie campervan I was busy playing with – a box which was labelled ‘VIDEOplus+’.
For those who are unfamiliar with this technology it was a way for you to schedule recording on your VHS using codes and some algorithm – which I won’t go into, primarily because I don’t understand how it works. You know those numbers next to listings in the Radio Times? If you remember/still read the Radio Times? Yea? That’s videoplus.
‘Never again will we have to be constrained by the TV schedule.’ he rhapsodised. As if he would be at an A-list party every night if it wasn’t for an episode of Taggart that he just couldn’t miss.
However, the path of true love never did run smooth and after 3 hours of fiddling with the small attachment he couldn’t get it to work. It kept flashing ’12.00′ and when we did eventually record something it wasn’t ‘Peter Pan’ but instead a news special on the Yugoslav Wars.
However, this was a breakthrough and the possibilities from then on were endless.
Snap back to 2010 and look how far we’ve come. Since then we have had technologies like Sky+. More recently, of course, Video-on-Demand platforms have been introduced including iPlayer, 4oD, ITVPlayer and, yours truly, SeeSaw.
There is almost no need, bar impatience, to watch programmes at the scheduled time.
Or is there?
Let’s welcome my mother to the story (it’s only fair), a woman who detests adverts. The idea of being ‘sold things’ is so abhorrent to her that she physically starts to shake during a commercial break.
She likes X factor, we both do. One weekend she asks if I will be in tonight so we can watch it together.
‘Of course, I’ll be watching it. Meet you at the sofa at 7.30.’
‘Oh, I was hoping that we could Sky+ it and watch it 15 minutes later so we can fastforward through the adverts.’
My eyes widened. You see: I’m impatient.
I relented and as a multi-tasker/fidget I settled down with my laptop in front of the TV. And as a force of habit flicked on to Twitter.
I was immediately bombarded with:
‘OMG. What is happening? I cannot believe my eyes. #xfactor’
What was happening? I was missing out on what everyone else was watching. The fifteen minutes seemed to me an eternity. Also, I was perturbed that my own, extremely witty, observations would be redundant to the online community who were significantly ahead of me.
With Twitter, I need never watch TV ‘alone’ again. Ok, I might not physically be present with them, but now I have hundreds of people (ok dozens… ok, ok, 8 on a good day) to discuss the goings-on of the idiotbox with me.
Any programme worth its salt – or certainly those that appeal to the lowest common denominator – becomes a trending topic on Twitter. And therefore, now, it is not uncommon for you to be flashed a ‘hashtag’ as a show begins to ensure that it reaches pole position.
However, the online ‘community’ isn’t reserved to Twitter users. Only last week Channel 4′s ‘Million Pound Drop Live’ online game had 100,000 people playing along during the transmission. And last year the BBC hosted a real-time online community for the Apprentice, where people would post comments about the contestants and even vote for who they thought was going to be fired.
Obviously there will never be the necessity to watch live TV as there used to be, but perhaps the microblogging site has made it a bit more relevant in the digital age.