I Keep Flipping Channels

Kasey Schumacher

kasey schumacher | social cues | april 2018

Growing up, I was always the kid who plopped herself in front of the television for an awards show or big event. It didn't matter if it was the Grammys, the MTV VMAs, the Super Bowl or (my personal favorite) the Tony Awards. I saw the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction in real time. I watched the infamous Madonna/Britney kiss as it happened. I cheered when Halle Berry won Best Actress for “Monster's Ball." Watching these events used to be a “thing" for me.

That's not the case anymore. For instance, the Academy Awards took place last month right after we performed for the annual CP Telethon. I felt no urgency to rush home and watch. I didn't turn it on the entire evening and instead opted to watch reruns of “The Office" … again.

It made me think about why that changed for me over the years. Did I just get older? Do I just not care anymore? Why did this used to be such a big deal and now it doesn't even phase me? I came to the conclusion that I believe social media plays a big part in it.

There's little need for me to watch an awards show in real time anymore. Anything of importance, any particularly moving performance or speech or malfunction will immediately be plastered all over social media. I don't feel like I'm going to miss out on anything, because I know I'll see it on Facebook repeatedly if it really was that catastrophic.

Take the Fergie national anthem situation earlier this year. I am not the type of person who would watch the NBA All-Star Game — basketball isn't exactly my cup of tea. However, my newsfeed was flooded with clips and articles about Fergie's rendition of the national anthem for several days after the game. I didn't have to watch it to see the big takeaway from that event; it was all right there at my fingertips moments after it happened.

Or, if you recall, the singer Pink had an incredibly moving speech about her daughter and being our authentic selves during the 2017 VMA Awards. I'm probably not going to spend three or more hours watching MTV these days (to be honest, I don't even have the option to watch MTV on my tv anymore). However, Pink's speech was all over my Twitter feed and my Facebook. Articles with commentary and reactions continually popped up. I could read the entire transcript of her speech if I wanted to. I could watch the clip on repeat via YouTube if I so chose to do so. It's like social media has become the Cliff Notes of these kinds of events.

Even when I do watch my favorite Tony Awards broadcast every June, I'm not actively watching like I used to. I tend to have it on in the background but follow the Tony Awards hashtag on Twitter and spend my time reading what other people have to say about what's happening. I now find it far more entertaining to read tweets from some stranger in Arkansas about Ben Platt's performance and acceptance speech. The tweets refresh continually by the second and there's always something new to read, laugh at, disagree with or contemplate.

On the flipside, when I actually do want to watch something, I find I have to completely avoid social media if I DO want to enjoy it by myself first. Take the finale of “The Bachelor" last month. I am not afraid to admit I am a dedicated Bachelor-franchise fan. On the night of the big finale, they had a three-hour (yes, THREE-HOUR) long finale and it was rumored this was the most dramatic and surprising finale ever (I know they always say that, but it was for real this time). I had plans for a family dinner the same night as the finale, so I knew I wasn't going to be able to watch it live. I also don't have a DVR on my tv, so it's not like I could just start watching when family dinner was done. I had to wait until the next day when the episode was available on Hulu. Between the time it aired and when it was available on Hulu, I avoided social media because I didn't want to see spoilers, articles, pictures or commentary. I think I went 18 hours without going on Instagram, which is sadly a record for me.

In the grand scheme, I know none of this really matters. It's just an awards show. It's just a half-time performance. It's just a reality tv ending. But, it's fascinating for me to evaluate how my habits have changed in the past decade simply because of the pervasiveness of social media. And I can't even imagine what will change in the next decade because of it.

Kasey Schumacher is the marketing director for Let Me Be Frank Productions by day and a performer for the troupe by night. When she isn't updating Facebook or singing a 1970s classic, she enjoys running, cooking, questioning final rose picks on 'The Bachelor' and planning overly extravagant trips to Disney.

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