Friday, September 27, 2013

Re-examining live-tweeting (however reluctantly)

This morning I read a terrific interview with Kerry Washington, star of the TV drama Scandal, and the legendary TV, film and now Broadway actress Cicely Tyson (it really is a great article, take a look). Among other things, Washington mentions the fact that part of the show's success is having the cast live-tweet during show airings. I looked it up - and it's true! (You probably already knew this, but I don't watch TV, so cut me some slack, okay?)

I've complained a lot in this blog about people who live-tweet and/or text during movies, as have many other people around the blogosphere, but try as one might, one cannot ignore the fact that it has become a Thing. It's something certain people love to do now, whether it's at the movies or while watching TV, and I imagine it's probably not limited there, either. So maybe it's past time to try and understand why people do it, and do it so often.

When I recently watched Gone With the Wind on Turner Classic Movies, I mentioned in my post that I followed along on Twitter at the hashtag "TCMparty" for the first time, to see what it was like. I wrote that reading other Tweeters' comments, jokes, bits of trivia, etc., made watching the movie more fun that it would've been without, but I also said that I didn't feel entirely comfortable dividing my attention this way, and I wouldn't want to engage in this sort of thing all the time. In addition, I emphasized that live-tweeting should be looked upon only as a substitute for real-life interaction in the absence of the real thing. I still believe that.

I initially joined Twitter for one reason: to promote WSW. Over time, however - and I suppose I should've anticipated this - I realized that "promotion" can mean much more than posting the link to the latest post every time it goes up. Establishing and maintaining a presence on Twitter is difficult, and I admit I'm not that great at it, but I do what I can: during the summer, I live-tweet at outdoor locations before the start of a film, for instance, or I'll post links to past posts.

But of course, as I accumulate more followers, especially when they're fellow bloggers, there are more people I wanna talk to, and soon enough, I'm having entire conversations with people like my pal Page, and meeting new people like Joanna, and that's great too. I understand that this is Twitter's primary purpose.

That said, I still feel - and maybe I'm just a fuddy-duddyish square for thinking so - that there ought to be boundaries. I was at a street festival last week and at one point there was a live band playing, and I felt the need to tweet a couple of times as they played, when I should've been paying attention to the band (who were great). It seems like common sense to me, but if something's going on in front of you, like a performing band, or a TV show or a movie, and your attention is somewhere else, you might miss something good. So why split your concentration that way?

Modern technology has turned us into a society of multitaskers: we're no longer either willing or capable of focusing on one thing at a time. If we're at the movies, we have to also text our friends during it. If we're driving, we have to also check our e-mail. But do we have to? And should we? Research suggests that multitasking can be less productive than we think.

When I was live-tweeting Gone With the Wind at #TCMparty, although it meant dividing my concentration, it did feel at times like I had twenty or thirty other people in my living room talking about the movie with me. I can certainly understand the allure of that, and I'm sure it's the same way for Scandal fans, especially since they get to watch the show along with the cast. It's an unprecedented level of interaction between fans and performers. It's different, however, when you don't have other people around, experiencing the same event or performance as you. 

Film has traditionally been presented in a format that demands your complete attention, your complete focus, in a setting with other people. This was particularly true during the silent era, where you couldn't rely on dialogue or sound effects to help you figure out what's going on. These days, watching movies is no longer limited to sitting in a darkened room with other people, and new viewing habits such as live-tweeting have encroached on the old, to the point where some theaters are considering making concessions to this new breed of moviegoer - and not just movie theaters, either. In fairness, there have always been talkers at movie theaters, people who either whisper too often or too loudly or both, and sometimes, they don't even whisper. Also, in some cultures, social interaction during movies is no big deal.

I feel the same about live-tweeting/texting now as before - don't do it around me - but if more people keep doing it... I dunno, maybe it is time to provide separate facilities for people who wanna do that. My gut tells me that this is just giving in to inconsiderate rogues who have forgotten how to simply sit back and enjoy a movie/TV show/concert/whatever, if they ever knew, but live-tweeting/texting can no longer be written off as an aberration or a youth fad. 

I wish I had a solid answer. Maybe you do?


  1. For me it's just going with the new way of media. Twitter has become a major part of things. Getting those quick thoughts out in 140 characters. Making up hashtags. Using hashtags to win stuff mentioned on a TV show.

    Now if people start live tweeting while in a movie theater? That's just stupid. Movies in a theater are nowhere near the same as tweeting about a TV show. Although sometimes Live Tweeting is NOT always live.

    I watch shows days later and then "live tweet" my thoughts as they occur so they are not lost to the ether. Many times these thoughts have been picked up by the writers, producers, actors and more. They'll favorite, re-tweet and in some cases even response.

    It's just a new form of relating and conversation.

    Back in the day people sat in Chat Rooms on AOL while their favorite shows were on. but that concept seems to have died down. It still exists for some things. Mostly chat rooms on shows that are internet based (look at but twitter and facebook is the new place.

    140 character reviews are becoming a norm too.

    One must sadly move with the changing times or choose to stay behind, but staying behind will only achieve keeping the fan base you have, not gaining a new one.

    Is it a pain? Sure it is... but it's the way of the world. News comes via tweets first even these days. I'm talking BIG news.

  2. You watch a show and then live-tweet it? Isn't that cheating?

  3. I'm a fuddy-duddy from Squaresville, plus I don't own a mobile device. I enjoy twitter, but I don't want to divide my attention that way. One of my sisters enjoys participating in the TCM parties, but it's usually for one of the movies that is already committed to memory through multiple viewings. We got a lot of them in my family.

  4. That wouldn't be so bad, actually - tweeting along to a film you know inside and out.

  5. I'm still having a hard time getting my brain-around live tweeting. I get that it's a fun thing to do, especially in a group dynamic, but it feels like a strange thing to subject one's followers to.

    It's one thing if you're live-tweeting something that's happening live (a sporting event, a TV episode, breaking news)...but to live tweet a random film that you've decided to watch feels so wickedly random. What's more, if it's a subject that the tweeter is primarily mocking, it can feel like "too much" sometimes.

  6. I don't disagree. In my GWTW post I mentioned how I once did it while watching 'Cleopatra' in a cafe with the sound off and that was indeed, a random act done out of boredom and the ever-present need for attention.


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