Being Modern: TV-show hashtags

Robert Epstein
Sunday 17 February 2013 01:00
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Do TV viewers want a synchronous interactive experience? Yes they do. So Twitter has advised TV producers, anyway. I'll give you a second to work out what the heck that means… aaaaaaand, we're back. Are we back? You betcha, and we're back with a hashtag! Oh, #forgoodnesssake.

Because nothing says the ads are over like an ident with a hashtag plastered all over it. It's not enough that producers ask us to tune in nowadays; we have to be tuned in, too – enough to make "witty" remarks about whatever we've just seen.

Coming up next weekend is one of the big hitters of the TV Twitter schedule, the Oscars. Watch out for the appearance of "madlibs" – allegedly spontaneous hashtags that pop up on screen, such as #whatISgagawearing, in a bid to get them trending. Yep, they're bound to whizz you right through that four-and-a-half-hour snoozeathon.

Of course, interacting with television shows isn't entirely new – only, in the past, there's usually been a solid reason behind it. To complain (Points of View); to offer a collection of bubblegum cards in exchange for a bike (Swap Shop); or to be humiliated (Noel's House Party). In other words, viewers actually affected what was taking place on screen.

Now, instead, we're endlessly encouraged to expel mind-farts into the digital abyss, like a frothy-mouthed clump of am-dram Lears who have nothing left to live for other than the vain hope that a continuity announcer will chucklingly reveal to the nation what we've been saying. #seriouslyguys.

Some might say that's not so very different from the way people use Twitter every day, as we wait for others to validate us by "favouriting" (ugh) our musings. But as soon as the activity becomes less ethereal, as soon as it's grounded in commerciality and notions of brand-building, it loses its sense of free-wheeling merriment. Don't tell us what to tweet about, please: we're perfectly able to concoct our own ridiculous topics. So, who's up for a game of #namingfamousBernards? Go on, I'll begin. Cribbins…

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