Conventional wisdom suggests that we watch the Academy Awards or the Grammys because of our interest in film, music and the mind-bogglingly expensive fashions celebrities wear.
But as social media intertwines with our television viewing, Americans also may be tuning in to such live events to make sure they don’t miss the latest Internet meme.
“Having technology like Twitter and Facebook and smart phones in our pockets and hands all the time is causing these conversations and trends to become something basically in real time,” says Tom Thai, vice president of marketing for Bluefin Labs, a Massachusetts-based firm that analyzes social media conversation about TV. “If you’re not participating in this stuff live, there will be people who feel like they’re missing out.”
Let’s say you were not among the Nielsen-estimated 39.3 million people who watched the Billy Crystal-hosted Oscars. You might have woken up the next morning not knowing that Angelina Jolie posed with her right leg in a provocative position, which was immediately mimicked by Jim Rash when he picked up his screenwriting Oscar, spawning Twitter feeds, Tumblrs and assorted other parodies online. Miss that one minute and already you’re at least 10 steps behind in pop culture — or, as those AT&T smart phone commercials coyly remind us, you’re so 27 seconds ago.