In the center of a dimly-lit, small-theater sized room, a group of strangers surrounded me as we all watched the season premiere of a new, fairly popular cable TV show. Impressed with the events occurring before us on screen, I commented to a friend about how much I was enjoying the show, and she replied by saying how great she thought it was as well. But we didn’t really say a word to each other, not literally anyway. We couldn’t. She wasn’t even in the room with me. She was almost 2,000 miles away on the other side of the country.
Things didn’t used to be like this, you know? It used to be that you would call up a friend during or after a show had premiered on cable TV to chat about everything that was occurring. Of course, conversing like this required you to either interrupt the show (and bother anyone around you watching it as well) or wait until it was over to really talk about it (which, by then, you forgot most of what you just watched). You could have, of course, also invite people over to your house to watch the show, but if a friend had other plans, or lived on the other side of the country, that became quite a bit difficult.
Enter the smart phone, a magical, web-capable object that many of us tend to take for granted. It was on my phone, with the virtual, touch-sensitive keyboard that I was “talking” with my friend on the other side of the country while still enjoying the show we were watching; all without disrupting anyone around me in the room. The friend I was chatting with about the show, mind-you, is one I met on Facebook some time ago. We have never met in real life and yet we feel fortunate to connect and be able to talk about things like TV shows.
Nearly 90% of America feels the same way about connecting over the internet with people, both friends they’ve met in real life and others whom they’ve never met before at all. At least, that’s according to a study which showed that 86% of people with access to the internet on their phones use it while watching TV. Of the time spent on the internet while watching TV, 40% of that time is spent on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. This shouldn’t be too surprising for anyone as we are, after-all, social creatures. We want to connect and talk with other people. We want to continuously be “in the loop” about the things we care about (TV or not). Now people from across the globe, who have never met before, can virtually “meet” and talk about things they have in common.
TV makes the connection easy because right off the bat you have something to talk about with these strangers or acquaintances or ’round-the-world-somebodies. Being able to connect with other people who enjoy the same cable TV shows as you is a great feeling. Entire business models are being built around the idea of being able to socialize with people while watching TV. Companies like Getglue, Clicker, Tunerfish, and IntoNow make it painlessly easy to reach out and find people who are watching the same thing you are, while you’re watching it. You can, in affect, build a fairly large social circle off of a TV show with the press of a few buttons on your phone. But you don’t need special applications or networks to connect with people across the world. Fan pages on Facebook and hashtags on Twitter make connecting easy as pie. No matter how you look at it, the internet and TV combined make it easy to grow a social network, even if that network includes people half-way across the world. If you look at what’s happening here it’s evident that TV and internet can actually be good for your social life. Facebook friends photo via NYTimes.