Social Media

The Future of Television?

Elizabeth Dubois

If you are like most people, you have had those moments where you cannot focus any longer. You just need a break.

If you are like me, that break regularly includes checking up on Facebook and Twitter. There is something with this desire – dare I say need to check in online.

Now think back to that LOST finale, though I have never watched the show in my life I knew exactly what was happening, what people thought about it and why. Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites allow for real time mass updates. An urgency is created, a sense that you need to know, and you need to know now.

Now the implications for our every day life, and indeed society as a whole are certainly intriguing, but answering the age old question “why?” is an expedition for another time.

What I want to talk to you about is how Samsung and their “Social TV” are bridging a gap between medium, melding the Internet and social networking with the more traditional medium of television. Basically Social TV allows you to watch your regularly scheduled programming while also Tweeting, Facebook stalking and so on.

Samsung Smart TV Social TV.

There used to be a vacuum between the Internet (via computers) and television, they used to be different. But today it’s a one-stop shop fit with split screens and customizable usage. Other than having a new gadget to show off next time you have a movie night, what does this mean for our experience of television?

Well it could mean that you take in less of the program because you are distracted by the comments and posts of others. Or it could mean that you take more from a program by reading the comments of others which enrich your understanding of the plot. What’s that green thing Sheldon (Big Bang Theory) is holding? Your comic book savvy friends inform you its is a lantern and here is a link to a more detailed explanation. All of a sudden Sheldon just got even more entertaining.

Or maybe the constant stream of comments will be like the CNN ticker, updating you on current events, suggesting the other interesting programs you are missing and might want to record or investigate. This could allow you to have a more wide ranging view of the world (as broadcast). But of course it could also allow you to fall into the niche you create as you select who to follow.

The arguments for and against this new media are not new at all, we have been talking about them in the context of the Internet for years. Before that we wrote a communal pro/con list for the television, the printing press, and so on.

At the end of the day social TV, like all technologies, are what you make of them. We may be filling the space between the Internet and television but other issues become evident. How we use it, what it means as compared to what it is created for are not necessarily in synch. We choose the gaps and how to fill them as the future of television is social.

Social media is going to change the very way in which we watch television. Photo credit: Michele Piacquadio.