Restore television’s social role

Is it white and gold, or black and blue? Chances are, if you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve heard about “the dress” and have an opinion on it.

Besides dividing netizens, the Internet’s obsession over the dress shows an interesting transition: Internet sensations have replaced television’s place at the water cooler. The Internet has made television a solitary activity rather than a social one, and this change can be a bit perplexing.

I was raised by a football coach, but I don’t necessarily look forward to the Super Bowl every year just to watch a good game. I love watching the Super Bowl because I know that the rest of the nation is watching with me. The day after the game, I could ask anyone at work or in school about the game and strike up a conversation. I’m still not done talking about “left shark”, the Nationwide “dead kid commercial,” and the Seahawks’ questionable play at the end of the game.

Starting a conversation with customers at work had never been so easy.

Unfortunately, the Super Bowl is one of the only television events that people seem to watch live anymore. Over 10 years ago, “Lost” premiered and became an instant success for ABC. “Lost” was the kind of show that had a huge audience and forced its viewers to watch when each episode first aired or suffer the spoilers that would inevitably follow at work.

I didn’t watch “Lost” until my senior year of high school, long after it had gone off the air. I watched “Lost” how most of us watch television these days, alone, and by binging an entire season in one sitting. After I finished each episode, I was dying to debrief my viewing experience, but realized that I couldn’t. I had to experience “Lost” alone and felt like something was lacking.

We don’t bond about watching television live anymore; instead, we bond about determining the color of a dress or if an Internet obsession is real – Alex from Target anyone?

However, I enjoyed the #thedress phenomenon because I loved the water cooler moment it created, reminding me that the new water cooler moments are founded on the Internet. We now rely on the Internet for this sense of community because we don’t make the time to watch a show live anymore; we’ll just wait until it shows up to Netflix and watch it for 24 hours straight.

But television is still best experienced with other people. My roommate and I are currently watching “Mad Men,” and I love watching her expression when something shocking happens and hashing out the crazy moments together. Whenever I binge watch by myself, I hate not being able to talk about my favorite character, or how frustrated I am with a plot.

I can only hope that shows like “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead” will revive the common television-watching experience that, unfortunately, only occurs a few times a year.  These shows deserve an active following – they deserve to be brought back to the water cooler.

Rachel Berquist is a junior majoring in English and psychology.

March 18, 2015


Rachel Berquist

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