by Melissa Brunner
A couple weeks ago, the comic strip Zits showed the mom asking her teenaged son why he was looking at his phone while watching television. He explained the second screen was all about sharing the experience of the program with other people. The mom then steps back to reveal the son's girlfriend sitting next to him on the couch and he asks, "When did you get here?"
It's funny because it's true. The second screen has become standard operating procedure in today's modern television programming. Reality shows like Survivor will display a hashtag for certain portions of the episode, so you can easily find others tweeting on the same topic. Sitcoms and dramas often invite you live tweet with one of the stars each week. Heck, we even have a live chat going through WIBW.com during most of our newscasts!
The power of the second screen really flexed its muscle during the Oscars with the selfie seen round the world. When Ellen tweeted a picture surrounded by celebrities and told us to set a record for sharing it, by gosh, we responded. The photo has been retweeted 3.2 million times!
I'm not knocking the second screen. I admit, I enjoy it especially during awards shows and other special events, largely to see what snarky comments people might make or to argue over who was best dressed or gave the greatest speech. During the news chat, I might add an extra tidbit about a story or answer a question on a detail someone might have missed.
But the point of the Zits comic isn't lost. If we are ignoring the people who and world which physically surrounds us, are we truly sharing the experience? Modern technology makes the world so small, allowing interaction in ways that seemed like science fiction when I was a kid. If we aren't careful, though, that same technology might bring a dose of reality to those futuristic visions of a world dominated by robots and short on human contact. We must keep our eyes and ears open to the person at the other end of the couch, make that human connection first, and, perhaps, share your reaction with that person in spoken words before typing it to your followers.