My dad and I had a Saturday ritual before I left for Cal Poly. Every Saturday afternoon in the fall, we would go for a run in the morning having recorded all the big college football games that day. By the time we got back, showered, ate breakfast and took care of a few household chores, we’d plop down in front of the couch and watch college football.
Besides not answering phone calls or listening to anyone in the house who might know the scores, we could blissfully live in the past and buzz through commercials like nobody’s business.
But that was before Facebook exploded and Twitter was just a verb to describe the birds chirping. I’m not sure we could repeat our ritual today. Not because social media is too intrusive, not because our phones are glued to our hands and not because a simple text can ruin everything.
If given the choice, for most big sporting events, I won’t watch them on tape delay because reacting alongside friends and celebrities on Twitter has become part of the game experience. Before the heyday of social media, reacting to the big moments in the Masters (the double eagle, the crazy hook shot from Bubba Watson in the playoff) came the next day at school or work.
Now journalists on the scene can react to a shot or play before it appears on your television screen (thanks to Janet Jackson and the seven-second delay). And reporters on the scene can begin reporting on quirky stories hours ahead of a journalist without Twitter. Minutes after Louis Oosthuizen tossed his double-eagle ball into the crowd, ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski found the lucky recipient, talked to him and posted about it.
A few hours later, he checked back with the man and heard that he had returned the ball to the club, presumably in exchange for something (hopefully, a round of golf at Augusta).
These little stories that provide asides to the main story create a more compelling sports-watching-experience and are only possible because of the instantaneous nature of Twitter.
Plus we get to read hilarious tweets from Bubba Watson, such as the one he posted hours before going out for his final round. “How do I get my hair to look so good???? #GoatMilk,” he tweeted.
Social media now takes the experience of watching sports with your buddies and amplifies it. You can still watch the big game with your friends over a bowl of chips and guac, but now the best comment can be posted, retweeted and re-upped in the Twittersphere.
Plus 80 percent of people multitask while watching TV, according to a recent survey by Yahoo mobile and RazorFish, so taking 30 seconds out to post a quick comment doesn’t take away from the interpersonal interaction when done in moderation.
Now Twitter and the second-screen effect, watching TV with another device in front of you, is an advertisers best friend. Tivo and other DVR options are still a great way to catch shows and games when you’re away, but now the experience is different from watching live. Consequently, people not only watch commercials, but tweet about them too.
It’s no coincidence that the first ad after the Super Bowl started ended with a hashtag to promote Budweiser’s new platinum beer … whatever that means.
Obviously though, there’s a limit to social sharing. Once people start Instagramming themselves watching a game while tweeting in an attempt to ironically share the game, we’ll know we’re doomed.