Day 15 Two’s Company

Just around the corner from where I live is a house that has regular parties for swingers, people come from miles around for a night of sweaty swopping, and it’s not the first one to exist in this area. Growing up here in the seventies I remember lots of stories of car keys on the coffee table, naked “touch and feel parties” and I was forever seeing someone’s husband with someone else’s wife after the wife swopping party carried on a bit longer than it should have. I’d always assumed it was something to do with the water round here but it seems, according to Adam Crozier ITV Chief Executive, that we’re all at it. Speaking at the MediaGuardian Changing Media Summit in London, he told the assembled throng that almost half of those watching The Only Way Is Essex on ITV2 are also using Facebook or Twitter at the same time.

So, in the network that we like to call social, we’re all having a bit of the other behind our TV spouse’s back. Not content with television monogamy, we’re vajazzling our viewing with a sprinkling of digital diamonds just to give it an extra sparkle. In fairness, programmes such as The Only Way Is Essex, with its perma-tanned beauties and muscle-bound hunks, is bound to get the Twitterati frantically wacking their keyboards. That, to me, is no worse than knocking out a crafty one whilst your partner is lying asleep next to you. But watching TV and going on Facebook is swopping pure and simple, and I don’t think I like it.

Prude that I am, I have steadfastly avoided the two-screen experience, I feel disloyal to the television turning away from its loving gaze to get an eyeful of Facebook. I admit to the occasional snog with Twitter during Question Time, but for the most part I have been a pretty faithful partner. My constancy to the TV was tested during one of the early episodes of the splendid The Killing, where I was distracted for a moment by a particularly juicy titbit on Facebook. I’d become so immersed in the Danish masterpiece I’d convinced myself I was actually understanding what they were saying rather than reading the subtitles. I flirted about on Fb and when I looked up ten minutes of the precious Forbrydelsen had slipped by and I had no idea what had happened. Lesson learnt. Laptop closed. Lund and Lund alone had my attention from there on in (by the way if you don’t get the Killing references where the fuck have you been?).

I get that we have the capacity to do two things at once, to have two entertaining partners to play with at the same time, but doesn’t it just dilute the experience? Don’t you feel just a tiny bit grubby to have it both ways? Our continuous partial attention will inevitably feedback to the programme makers and influence how they produce TV in the future. Will you start to receive friend requests from the stars in the show? Will there be an infinite recession of You Tube clips of the programme you’re now only half watching appearing in your News Feed. Worse still, will there come a day where Facebook and TV decide to get married, and you end up standing in the church crying “it should have been me” as the two lovers that you were seeing at the same time kick you out of bed.

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