The internet is coming for Snooki.
When I was a kid, our family dinners lasted about seven minutes. My dad never said much back then and we had a strict rule that there was no television during dinner. We were told to shut off the box. We sat down at the table. And we ate, fast.
Then my parents discovered the wondrous pleasures of Wheel of Fortune and everything changed. We turned on the box and our dinners were filled with loud attempts to guess the word or phrase before the people on the show did. Every so often, a contestant who already had to know the answer would buy an extra vowel or two just to be sure. My dad, the formerly silent anti-television guy at the head of the table would turn red and cry out: “Vhat is he buying a vowel for vhen he knows the answer?”
Back then I felt like that was just the right amount of interactivity when it came to watching television. And I still feel that way today.
But if progress has its way, those days will soon be long gone. The realtime, social web came after my laptop, it came after my telephone, it came after my social life, my career, my cohort and my concentration. And now it’s coming after my television. Each time I gave over to the force of my technology addiction. But this is where I where I draw the line. This is where I lie back on my couch wielding my remote like Yoda’s lightsaber and make a stand. You’re not getting my TV.
But it’s probably a losing battle. Every significant technology company in the world wants the anchor spot at the center of your living room and the race is on to elegantly merge TV with the internet.
It’s all starting innocently enough. We get a few more shows on demand. We can access Netflix and YouTube on our televisions. We can schedule our DVRs with our mobile phones. All of these tools add to our television-watching experience. But it won’t stop there. The internet will eat its way onto your couch by way of your television. There will be a few apps here, a few tweets there, and gradually your peanut-shaped remote control will evolve into a keyboard, and then a touch screen. And boom, your television will be part of the web.
Don’t take my word for it. Look at Google’s own description of its TV initiative.
Google TV is a new experience made for television that combines the TV you know and love with the freedom and power of the Internet.
You know what I want the TV I know and love to be combined with? Nothing. I know and love it the way it is.
I want the freedom and the power that comes from turning off the internet and losing myself in a great show. When I sit back on my couch to watch TV, I don’t want to say Hmmm, I want to say Ahhh.
Don’t get me wrong. I know and love the internet too. But every combination of two good things does not equal a peanut butter and chocolate moment. The net and TV are more like wine and beer. Sometimes I want to sip quietly and discuss things like soil, vintage and region. Other times I just want to do a few keg stands and pass out.
As TV becomes more interactive, I think we’ll see more and more people heading away from their living rooms and back to public theaters where they can enjoy focused and uni-task entertainment in an environment where attendees are ordered to turn off their cell phones.
In the mean time, we’ll count on TV to offer an escape from work and web. My wife and I spend almost all of our time staring at the web or talking to each other in broken sentences over the tops of our Macbook screens. But then, Jersey Shore will come on and we’ll hear something truly absurd come out of Snooki’s mouth as she cannonballs into the rooftop hot tub and we’ll start to complain about how crazy that show is. And before you know it, our laptops are closed and we’re bonding over a communal awe-laced contempt for The Situation’s abs.
In my house, even bad television can create some real life interactivity. Of course, we enjoy ourselves all the more when we watch a great episode of Mad Men or Friday Night Lights. But like Vanna White and Pat Sajak before her, even Snooki can bring us together as a family.
Isn’t it crazy that in the internet age watching television can pass as an activity that creates a sense of real life community in a household? We all get off our individual internet screens and focus on one big screen together. It isn’t reading by lantern with the Ingalls in our Little House on the Prairie or waiting for everyone in our darkened house to say goodnight to John-Boy, but it’s what we’ve got.
Before too long, my wife and I will close our laptops and shut off the internet and when we look up at the TV, we’ll see our email, Facebook and Twitter accounts staring right back at us. My kids will eventually break us down and we’ll all be sitting around the dinner table watching the internet. And after a few too many glasses of wine I’ll pound my fist on the table and shout out: “Vhy did that guy just buy a vowel?” And my kids won’t even look up from their keyboards.