Simon Kelner: How Twitter has become the virtual sitting room of our time

 

Share

It's an odd thing, watching a television programme on Twitter. I mean the experience of monitoring Twitter at the same time as you are engrossed in something on TV.

Once, you had to wait until the following morning's reviews to have a sense of the prevailing opinion: now, the verdict is instantaneous. Not only that – and this depends on who you're following, of course – it can feel as if you're in your sitting room surrounded by a bunch of smartarses. It can also be an impediment to making one's mind up about things. You find yourself enjoying something, and then read Giles Coren saying it was cliché-ridden and predictable, or India Knight tweeting that it made her want to vomit. It can't do anything other than skew your own opinion.

I had this experience last week watching BBC's Question Time, a programme that may have been designed for the Twitter generation in the way it invites instant responses. Constant reminders of the show's hashtag confirm this view. I am of a generation that can only concentrate on one thing at a time, so I am lost in awe of those who can have one eye on the TV screen and the other on their Twitter feed, and are still able to come up with something pertinent, critical or clever within the confines of 140 characters. Like it or not, we live in the age of the aperçu.

I found Caitlin Moran's running commentary on Ann Leslie's increasingly baffling contributions to last Thursday's programme much more entertaining and illuminating than anything said by the panel. More important, however, is the feeling that, once you're plugged in to Twitter, you never need to feel alone again. If you're incensed by what a particular panellist had to say, all you need is a quick tweet and you'll find lots of people who think exactly same way, or not, as the case may be.

This idea that you're part of a much wider community, peopled – because we are selective in who we choose to follow – with like-minded souls is undoubtedly one of the most powerful attractions of Twitter.

That portrait of the Royle Family, two generations of couch potatoes sitting together watching the same television programme, comes from another time entirely. Even if we watch the same thing, we won't be doing it in the same room, at the same time, or even on the same piece of equipment. "The group experience has been replaced by the virtual experience," said the chief executive of Virgin Media this week. We may not like what this means for family life – it is pretty tricky to gather around an iPad – but it's hard to argue with this assessment. A younger person might even be more comfortable sharing his or her opinions on Twitter or Facebook than with those in the same room. I am not saying this is healthy, but in an age when we increasingly seek engagement, and a sense of belonging, at least these channels provide an outlet.

And when you're sitting there, shouting at Alastair Campbell, it helps to know that somewhere else, someone is doing exactly the same thing.

 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Polish Speaking Buying Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Superb opportunity for a BUYING...

Recruitment Genius: Support Worker

£14560 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers personalise...

Recruitment Genius: Key Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A really exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Multi Trade Operative

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An established, family owned de...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children who fled the violence in the Syrian city of Aleppo play at a refugee camp in Jabaa, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley  

A population bigger than London's has been displaced in Syria, so why has the Government only accepted 90 refugees?

David Hanson
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Ukip on the ropes? Voters don’t think so

Stefano Hatfield
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project