For years now, I have listened to first-hand accounts of the dangers of being overly connected: strangers, acquaintances and friends who either lament their troubled relationship with the internet and its various contributing technologies – email, social media, smartphones, connectedness in general – or who report great benefits to their complexion and psychological health after spending time offline. I believe all these feelings to be plausible and true, even as I am sceptical about the sometimes tacit, often explicit claim that social activities carried out online are inherently less authentic.
Television has always been a medium that brings people together. Even when watched alone, it is simulcast into millions of locations, bonding far-flung audiences in a shared zeitgeist. The idea of ‘water-cooler TV’ captures the sense in which we’ve understood TV as a medium experienced simultaneously and reflected upon immediately, among people whose social ties are otherwise loose.
Digital technology has multiplied and amplified these loose ties.