Twitter wants to be your TV.  Sure, we know Twitter doesn’t broadcast events — yet — and so on its way into warming up the internet boob tubes, Twitter is partnering with current television shows to bombard you with on screen commentary from Twitter users.  I find the whole process messy, embarrassing and annoying.

There’s nothing worse than watching a news broadcast or a live dramatic show on television and then having a big blue box pop up on screen with some illegible/unintelligible Twitter username spouting some incoherent — and often incomprehensibly spelled — “live” Tweet from someone in Upper Podunk or Lower Dinkdank.  Reading those live Twitter messages makes it clear we have a long way to go in the USA with educating our citizenry on the benefits of reading and writing.

The water cooler used to be the place where people gathered to talk about TV. Now, 95% of the public social conversation around TV happens on Twitter.

I don’t know why Twitter, or the TV networks, allow that sort of messy, bald, intrusion into the sanctity of our homes.  I really don’t care what some random Twitter user has to say, but if I did care, I’d fire up a Twitter client and go reading on my own without any TV facilitation.

Twitter, of course, disagrees:

How the world experiences TV has fundamentally changed. We no longer watch TV as a silent participant, rather as an active voice, sharing the experience as events unfold with people across the globe. Last year, 32 million people in the U.S. tweeted about TV programming: big events, like the Super Bowl (24 million Tweets) or their favorite weekly series, like American Idol (5.8 million Tweets during 2012). People tweet so much about TV that Twitter is becoming a fundamental part of  how TV is measured.

With this shift in our sights, we’re announcing the availability of TV ad targeting on Twitter.

I realize Twitter is desperate to sell Ads and make money for their Wall Street Overlords, but to that explanation, I reply: “Some people don’t need to be heard.  Quiet can have great significance and meaning in a loud world.”

Have you seen the “socially enhanced” episodic television shows?  They used to be relegated to “special repeats” where the Tweets are added to the rerun of the show, but now, those Tweets are being force-fed to us in real time, during the first run of the show, and it’s just plain embarrassing — but I don’t think Twitter cares, because they desperately need that screen time to try to mine significance.

Unfortunately, for Twitter, and other social media messengers, their blue-blocking of our TV screens appears to be failing:

Only 16.1 percent of the survey respondents said they had used social media while watching TV during prime time. And less than half of the people using social media were actually discussing the show they were watching.

Facebook was by far the most popular social network for people chatting during shows, used by about 11.4 percent of TV watchers, compared with 3.3 percent for Twitter.

The research findings contradict the notion — peddled heavily by Twitter and Facebook in their pitches to producers — that conversations on Twitter and Facebook are a big factor driving people to tune into TV shows.

It doesn’t get more blunt for the bluebird than this from NBCUniversal:

NBCU had expected social media to have a dominating effect on viewership for the Games. However, during the 18-day period of coverage, just 19 per cent of Olympic viewers posted about the games on social media, the broadcaster found. Mr Wurtzel said that a show’s ratings are more likely to drive activity on social media rather than vice versa.

“A lot of people want to show that they are on the cutting edge. One of the things that is on the cutting edge is social media,” Mr Wurtzel said. “Why wouldn’t I want to say to you, ‘We have a potent new way in which we can drive ratings?’

But “it just isn’t true”, he added. “I am saying the emperor wears no clothes. It is what it is. These are the numbers.”

The NBCU experience reflects mine.  A big blue blob on my screen blocks my enjoyment of what I’m watching and creates tension and resentment.  Twitter itself doesn’t push me to the TV and the reverse is also true — so trying to fornicate multiple advertising conversions that nobody but Twitter really wants procreating makes for an interrupted and abortive experience.

In fact, when I see the “live” Tweets start showing up on my screen, I cringe a little because I know the next new thing is going to put me straight under — the newscaster or announcer will READ ALOUD the awful on-screen Tweet, trying, and always failing, to not mangle the unpronounceable username and misspelled Tweet. It’s just the most awful experience. Not only can we not visually ignore the Tweet, we have to also tune down our ears in order to not hear it given a second, more wretched, voiced, life. Changing the channel is the only real escape.

I understand Twitter wants eyes — and more than that, clicks — but there has to be some reasonable way to let Twitter live without killing our TV viewing enjoyment!


  1. Shudders at the thought …. rather glad this has not reached the shores this side of the Atlantic – can do without his one thank you!

    Very little good has come out of Twitter as far as I can see – this would do nothing to give added value in my eyes – in fact it would just be another reason to irritate me and confirm my ambivalence towards the service and reaffirm my ability to live without it!

    1. Oh, it’s a plague on live TV now, especially the local news — even in NYC! — where these inane “Tweets” are begged for and then read live during the news as “commentary from our viewers”… we even get it during Yankees and Mets baseball games! It’s a virus that kills any sense of wonderment or fun when the “Tweeters” weigh in with their 140 character vapidity. Facebook is also begged for, but Twitter is always funnier and lumpier because of the character limits.

      I agree Twitter is a vast wasteland — but it’s our very future staring right back at us — and that makes me want to immediately go back to the real wonderment days of the invention of the Edison Gramophone when preservation and entertainment and immediacy of a live event really mattered!

      1. Twitter – the blue plague !

        I know some of the sports – football especially encourage twitter participation – but I don’t do football either!

        Nothing beats watching and participating in person with other people – be it at the event – or watching the event live – no need for intrusions – real or electronic from outsiders.

        1. Twitter creates a big circle jerk — where the newscasters and live presenters not only plead for Tweets to print, and then read live on “air” but also for you to “Follow” them on Twitter.

          That pleading is then followed by them spewing some inalienable username that makes no sense when spoken aloud in two seconds unless you’re nearby a pencil and paper or can quickly “Tweet Speak” it into your smartphone.

          It becomes tiresome when the live talent compete for Tweets. They Tweet during the shows. They go around and around with the incoming and outgoing that just makes it all really boring. The baseball games are the worst because they’re bored, and they start talking about their Twitter feeds. Utterly endless!

  2. NY1 sometimes does a callback segment where they read viewer emails and tweets but they’re vetted – and they seem to only do tweets and emails of people with real names. “Gordon from Kew Gardens” not “gordond”

    1. If you are going to curate the Tweets, that makes more sense — but there’s still the innate problem of brevity in a Tweet, you can’t do any contextual analysis, it’s just a blurp of opinion and that’s it — the worst Tweets are the live event shows like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars where the Tweets interfere with the performances because you can’t see what’s happening through the blue background on which the Tweets are presented! I’ve tried to stop watching any show that uses forced Tweets in that way. It takes away from the whole spirit of the show by shattering the fourth wall in a really rotten way. The repeat retreads with the “social media” junk added is never on my viewing sked.

  3. And then there’s this:

    Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have increased drastically in popularity. However, information on these sites is not verified and may contain inaccuracies. It is well-established that false information encountered after an event can lead to memory distortion.

    Therefore, social media may be particularly harmful for autobiographical memory. Here, we tested the effect of Twitter on false memory.

    We presented participants with a series of images that depicted a story and then presented false information about the images in a scrolling feed that bore either a low or high resemblance to a Twitter feed. Confidence for correct information was similar across the groups, but confidence for suggested information was significantly lower when false information was presented in a Twitter format.

    We propose that individuals take into account the medium of the message when integrating information into memory.

  4. David,

    The other day when my mother was visiting, she really wanted to see Dancing with the Stars. I am not a fan of the show or watching random people dance on television in general, but as she was there to help me with Chaim I figured — okay. As we watched I kept seeing the annoying popups. PRINCESSBUTTERCUP says that she wants Mandrina to win. Who are you, Princess, and why do you feel I need to know your opinion so much that you tweet at a television show?

    When I kept seeing the names pop up, something occurred to me — for a lot of people, this is an easy way of getting their “Five seconds of fame” — can you imagine all of the pictures people post to their social media accounts of “that time that my tweet was on television” — which then gets followed by congratulations from family, friends, etc.

    Television producers then win because all of these people end up talking about the show on which the tweet was featured.

    1. That’s what doesn’t make sense. TV is about mass media and millions of people watching one experience at the same time. To elevate a single Tweet to the level of the millions masses is a misnomer in the memeing. Nobody but the Tweeter cares what the Tweeter has to say and not even ABC can claim any sort of social integration with such a one person against the masses spectacle. On the surface it all may appear interactive, but the effect is minuscule against the effort exposed.

Comments are closed.