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Glorifying Social Media – When TV Met Twitter

There’s no denying the prominence of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter in recent years. Although these social media platforms did not exist a decade ago, they are now firmly embedded in modern society. In fact, it’s amazing how much social media influences our lives. We not only communicate online, but also “tweet” and “digg” and “bookmark” and “favorite” and share all kinds of content. Any event of interest, no matter how insignificant, will almost certainly be reported through multiple avenues online. Whether it’s a tweet, a blog post, or a viral video, the rumor spreads quickly across the internet. After all, we are the generation of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter: we live and breathe through social networks.

In particular, the rise of social networks caused an interesting phenomenon within the traditional media format. Recently, the world saw its first sitcom inspired by a Twitter account. Crassly titled $#*! My Dad Says, the show features William Shatner as a curmudgeonly old man with a wide range of one-liners, while his son records these comments on the Internet. The current Twitter account has almost two million followers; the sitcom’s premiere debuted to an audience of over twelve million viewers. Let those impressive numbers sink in first, and then you better realize that he was an anonymous old man, who would never have been famous without the internet, he garnered so much attention and popularity.

At first, the concept of a Twitter account sounds laughably absurd: how could a TV show be sustained based on random tweets under 140 characters? Turns out $#*! My Dad Says is no different from the standard laugh-out-loud comedies on CBS, complete with Shatner’s distinguished way of telling a joke (or any other, really). However, it is the idea behind the sitcom that shows the most originality. Think of what the show has accomplished with its mother existence: a social media icon being celebrated on network television! Can you imagine having a TV show based on your disjointed thoughts online? Can you imagine being famous for your Twitter account?

As Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter become more pervasive in our culture, it’s becoming clear that social media no longer has limits. His influence extends beyond the Twitterverse or a primetime TV show; affects our modernity as a whole. This essay will take a deeper look at the seamless integration between social media and traditional media, as well as the disturbing repercussions of this recent trend in pop culture.

The Facebook movie and the Twitter sitcom are just two recent examples among numerous success stories. Several high-profile entertainment bloggers have quit their day jobs so they can become full-time online gossipmongers. HBO is in production on a comedy called Tilda, with Diane Keaton and Ellen Page, about a fearsome blogger who vaguely resembles Nikki Finke. Additionally, there are hundreds of minor internet sensations who became famous for their viral videos, and sometimes their fame extends to lucrative opportunities in the entertainment industry. For example, that kid on YouTube is on The Amazing Race with his dad a few seasons ago. In fact, YouTube is like the hub of online celebrity; his stardom fades in and out over time. Leave Britney alone, anyone?

Given that a sizable portion of social media users are from the younger demographic, it’s no surprise that a number of youth-oriented shows feature social media in the show’s premise. For example, iCarly features three teenagers who discover the success of their webcast as they become online celebrities. Balancing the normalcy of teenage life alongside the abrupt fame of the internet makes iCarly unique from the other TV shows. Similarly, while Gossip Girl’s target demographic is aimed at a slightly older audience, it depicts an anonymous blogger who spreads outrageous gossip on the internet and how this inadvertently affects the lives of several privileged young adults. Gossip Girl covers the darker side of social media, where online anonymity poses a threat to real-life privacy.

By promoting both social media on television and in movies, the entertainment industry has sent the message that Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are integral elements of our daily lives. It seems that a Facebook account is even more significant than an email address or cell phone number. It seems that relying on Twitter feeds and viral videos is more preferable than reading an actual news article. It looks like blog posts will revolutionize the magazine industry soon enough. As the number of TV shows and movies about social media is increasing, this trend indicates that we cannot function in society without some kind of social media platform or social profiles account. How else will you communicate with your acquaintances? How else will you manage your friendships and relationships?

I am of the school of thought that relying too heavily on any technological means can lead to disastrous results. Social media may have made our communication processes easier, but it also oversimplified our abilities to form coherent and insightful thoughts. After all, how deep can your tweets go if they only allow you 140 characters per message? And anyone who has bothered to look at the comments section below a YouTube video, especially on controversial topics, can witness a wide range of platitudes. Even Facebook, with its frequent violation of privacy, has an unsophisticated system for categorizing your profile details, like the “It’s Complicated” option for your relationship status. (Of course, they don’t care what you put on your profile, as long as you’re part of the demographic for potential online advertisers. Single man in his thirties who uses Facebook a lot? How about clicking the online site? dating site ad in sidebar?)

Social media does not pose any life-threatening danger, although there are some incidents of online stalkers or worse, but we still need to be aware of its obvious limitations as a means of communication. Don’t assume social media is essential just because it’s promoted everywhere in movies and TV shows. Don’t misjudge its prevalence as a form of necessity. As consumers, as online users, and as human beings, we need to look critically at social media as a form of traditional new media. If these social media platforms are here to stay, where do we fit in? Are we satisfied with being defined as the generation of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter?

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