TV Before Social Media: What The Dark Ages Looked Like


Before Social Media, How Did We Experience Tv Shows With Others?

 Do you remember taking two rolls of pennies to school to be like Fonzie's cousin Angie who stacked 40 quarters on his elbow and in one fell swoop caught them all in his hand? He was trying to set a world record and the boys in school were trying to impress the girls.

Back in the day, this was one of the ways people discussed their favorite televisions shows from the night before. "Internet" wasn't even a word in the mid-1970s, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wasn't even a gleam in his parent's eyes, and wireless phones, computers, and tablets were relegated to annals of science fiction.

Still, everyone had methods of social media for the purposes of discussing things like favorite television shows. I remember my older sister watching the likes of "Rhoda," "The Waltons," and "Police Woman" with the phone glued to her head, her BFF on the other end, discussing every scene, cute boy, and tearful moment as it unfolded.

I think this was more of a girl thing than a boy thing, because I don't recall my brothers doing that. I do, however, remember them going outside and meeting up with their friends to act out all the best scenes from "Baretta," "S.W.A.T.," "Starsky and Hutch," and re-runs of "Combat" from the night before. This was how we showed our total approval—and sometimes disapproval—of what we'd just seen on television.

I remember howling with laughter with some of my friends after we'd witnessed Sgt. Yamana (Jack Soo) eat some laced brownies on a particularly hilarious and product-of-its-time episode of "Barney Miller." We didn't really understand why he was so intoxicated, but it was clearly one of the funniest moments we'd ever seen on television, and we talked about it for ages.

In the public arena, the water cooler at the office was another important gathering place to discuss television happenings from the night before. Make no mistake about the water cooler back then. It was a real gathering place for such important discussions. Sure, they still exist today, but they don't hold the same purpose or charm they held in the pre-internet days. Today, they just dispense hot and cold water, the hot being an improvement over the old days.

But that's the only improvement. Adults had face-to-face discussions about "Monday Night Football" and how Howard Cosell was obviously drunk as he threw up on Don Meredith's cowboy boots; or when Sacheen Littlefeather refused to accept Marlon Brando's Best Actor Oscar because of the unfair treatment of American Indians by those in Hollywood.

The water cooler was there to witness all the excitement, emotions, and lost productivity when Luke Spencer and Laura Webber tied the knot on "General Hospital," the most-watched episode of a soap opera in the history of cable tv.

As email became a little more popular in the 1990s, more conversations about our favorite television shows came in this digital form. Remember getting spam emails about your favorite shows, sometimes with hundreds of other recipients, and that one person who was new to email would do a "Reply All" talking smack about something or another? This frequently made for as much drama as the shows they were discussing.

Today, the water cooler, rotary telephone, even email and many face-to-face discussions about our favorite television shows have each given way to new forms of social media. Text messaging, show-specific blogs, Facebook and Twitter posts, and even live comments during any number of television shows have all become common place.

If you are one of the majority of people who own a smartphone, laptop, or tablet device, then you might be a "second device" viewer. In fact, 75 percent of Americans who watch television do so with an internet-connected device at their immediate disposal.

As commonplace as eating dinner while watching television, 65 percent of today's connected viewers surf the web while watching television, 60 percent are on email, and nearly half claim to be on social media sites at the same time.

No one can deny the importance social media plays when it comes to television programming. Even old geezers who remember first-run episodes of "Happy Days," "Baretta," and "All in the Family" make the most of this new technology. After all, 27 percent of all second-device users are 44-years-old or older.

Old habits are hard to change. When you really like your television shows you'll find a way to talk about them. Isn't it great there are so many different avenues today?