About two years ago it became apparent that the way we watch TV has changed with the increased presence of the Internet, but waiting for the season four finale of The Walking Dead, in sheer agony wondering who will die and who will survive to the next season, it is clear that social networking has specifically changed how we react to popular and unpopular television. Shows like American Idol and X Factor already rely on social networks to spread the word of who has made into the next round and who’s been voted out.
As long ago as 2003, the Internet had become the world wide web’s watercooler where fans of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly would gather to argue, discuss and despair (in the sense of the early cancellation of the science fiction show mentioned above) about their favorite programs. If you’re wondering why two Joss Whedon television shows are mentioned, it is because Joss was one of the first (if not the first to understand how the Internet influenced television) Firstly by appealing to fans of his cancelled Firefly who banded together to support a big screen version of their favorite show and later by airing his Internet series Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.
Whedon may have been the first, but other’s have understood the importance of the Internet in a show’s continued popularity. AMC Network’s Breaking Bad was just one television series that utilized the net’s social networking ability to “live” tweet information from the stars of that series while the show was airing. Now another AMC show is doing the same, The Walking Dead has several of it’s stars who tweet on a regular basis and the run up to this season’s finale is no exception. This use of the net is changing the way we watch TV.
Certainly the Internet had it’s fair share of forums and chat rooms where fanboys and girls could meet and extoll the virtues of their favorite shows. Now Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the modern day equivalent of chat rooms and they are just as instantaneous as the old forums. These three are also the most used formats by programs audiences.
As I, like every other The Walking Dead fan, am waiting in suspense, and a certain amount of trepidation, for the show’s fourth season finale, it is Twitter and Instagram that I turn to for possible clues as to what may happen to the show’s stars. There is no shortage of “Dead” star’s accounts to follow both on Instagram and Twitter.
Norman Reedus – @bigbaldhead is perhaps the most prolific tweeter and poster of Instagram snaps, some of which are prophetic in nature, but other’s in the cast have their own social networking accounts. One of which, Melissa McBride – who plays Carol in The Walking Dead – @mcbridemelissa gave me the fanboy thrill of a lifetime of following me back on Twitter.
Just as social networking has enabled fans the chance to interact with the stars, producers, showrunners and various other crew members, it has also come up with the ever present danger of spoilers being transmitted via the Internet. Certainly most fans would rather have red-hot needles shoved under their fingernails than spoil a show’s plot for others. However, there are others who do not share their consideration.
All these places on the Internet that allow fan interaction and network hype-building have definitely influenced the face of television. If that seems hard to believe, just look at the amount of network Twitter handles out there. The old ways of promoting your award winning show have been circumvented by the Internet and its many different social sites that allow almost instantaneous communication between the audience and the show’s makers.
It is, perhaps, the tweeting little bird that has most changed the way we watch television, not to mention the effect that social networking has on films. Shows like The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, to name just two programs, have taken the use of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to a higher, more inclusive level. Something to think about whilst waiting for The Walking Dead to air in your time zone. And please, no tweeting of spoilers if you’re already watching…
By Michael Smith