When you think of the word “media” the first thing that probably comes to mind would be something along the lines of news or entertainment. But beyond that, while we may attend to media for those purposes on our own, media is also about shared experiences. On any given morning you might stand around the coffee machine at work discussing the previous evening’s episode of a favorite program, or perhaps the weekend’s football games, and there’s a LOT to discuss after this weekends games!
Or maybe you watched the Emmys…
“OMG, Tracy Morgan just passed out on the stage at the Emmys. Turn on ABC now!”
With television, we watch in isolation, but then seek out others with whom we can share those experiences. It’s a matter of bonding and community.
In the pre-broadcast era, our shared experiences involved being in the same place at the same time, from public events to the theater. The rise of broadcasting in the first half of the 20th century altered those experiences as news and entertainment were brought into the home. Radio listeners shared the experience of WWII, but in isolation. Through television we shared the experiences of the Kennedy assassination, Viet Nam, and the Challenger explosion. We also shared the good times of man’s first steps on the moon or great sports moments. And a billion of us watched as 33 miners were rescued from a collapsed mine in Chile.
While we watched and listened to these events in our homes or cars, we were still able to connect with others after the fact. I have vivid memories of experiencing 9/11 while working at the Paley Center for Media (then the Museum of Television & Radio) in NYC. While I was several miles away from Ground Zero at the moment of the attacks, I shared that experience with friends, family, and co-workers.
But all of that was either alone, or in small groups, often just my family.
With nearly a billion people on Facebook, and half as many on Twitter, we now experience events with countless others, in isolation, yet in real time. We don’t just watch television; we watch and tweet. We discuss what’s happening on our favorite programs on Facebook. Whether it’s American Idol or the finale of Lost, we sit in our homes, perhaps alone, but we engage in conversation as we watch. It’s a fractured community, but a community nonetheless.
Social media has created a global village that even Marshall McLuhan could never have imagined. From the privacy of our homes, we share these experiences with both our friends around the world, as well as the countless strangers who just happen to be watching what we’re watching, and sharing the same digital space.
According to the folks at the Pew Internet & American Life Project, more than half of use our cellphones while watching TV. We’re texting, tweeting, and engaging with others, and that doesn’t include those of us who might be using laptops or other digital devices while watching. And as the adoption of smart phones increases, we will see more of this; we are increasingly connected to the outside world in very personal and real-time ways.
My first real experience with this was in 2008 as I watched my Philadelphia Phillies win their first World Series in nearly three decades. Not only did I share that experience with my family as we watched the games in the comfort of our family room, but I connected with a much larger community online, as we live tweeted the event.
Pew’s research indicates that this was also a big part of our Olympic experience this summer, as we followed our favorite events and athletes online. Those who worry about social media further isolating us couldn’t be more wrong. We are making more connections, more often, and they are real.
For those who use social media, this is no surprise. Shared media experiences are the new norm. We share triumph and tragedy. We share great sports moments, as well as favorite television shows. Communities are formed and nurtured. Log onto Facebook or Twitter over the next few months and see what happens. Football games, a presidential election, natural disasters, and television cliffhangers. All of these will be among the experiences we share with a greater community that extends far beyond any physical borders. We are connected and we are not alone.
What experiences have you shared with others online, while sitting in the comfort of your own home?
- Using Social Media For Sustainability: WiserEarth Does It, And Well (waxingunlyrical.com)
- Faking it on Social Media: What are the Costs? (spinsucks.com)
- Curators and Gatekeepers: Who Do You Trust? (inklingmedia.net)
- What Social TV Means for Marketers (spinsucks.com)
- Maximize Social Customer Service with Listening Technology (v3im.com)