How Not to Live-Tweet Your Favorite Television Show

The results from the first week of Nielsen Twitter TV ratings (a surprisingly new-media measuring metric for the decidedly old-school company) are in, and they’re hardly surprising: Scandal topped the list, with a “unique audience” of 3.6 million from 712,000 tweets. And I’ll tell you this much: there are nights where it seems like all 712K of them are on my timeline. Look, I get that everybody loves Olivia Pope and her smart/soapy badassery, and that the social media experience has become part of the show’s appeal. But can we all think about upping our “live-tweeting” game, just a little bit?

I’ll confess to being slightly befuddled by the notion of live-tweeting episodic narrative television; I’ve done it for events like the Oscars, and I get those who take to Twitter to critique the contestants of competition shows (The Voice took the fourth- and fifth-place slots, by the way). But when it comes to, say, Breaking Bad, a show that generated considerable Twitter traffic this last season, it never even occurred to me to pull out my phone or laptop and type along with the show; I was too busy being, y’know, involved in it. Afterwards, perhaps I’d compose a thought or two about it — usually with a degree of effort and interest in saying something modestly insightful. But I can’t imagine trying to come up with interesting things to tweet about it while it’s playing out in front of me.

And that’s the catch: based on the kind of comments that Scandal and The Vampire Diaries and Glee and other top-tweeted shows tend to generate, no one else is coming up with interesting things to say about them, either — but that’s not stopping them from doing it anyway. Here’s a few tweets from last week’s Scandal airing: “Damn right.” “Mellie is such a badass.” “That was cold blooded.” “LMAO WHAT?” And, of course, “LOLOLOLOL.” Every week, Scandal watchers, you turn our timelines into this string of nonsense, and I get it; you’re sharing the experience of watching a fun, provocative show in numbers. But every single thought that crosses your mind during your favorite show is not necessarily a perfectly polished pearl that must be hashtagged and released, lest it float off into the ether unappreciated.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just superfan viewers that don’t know how to live-tweet. A couple of weeks ago, when Breaking Bad aired its much-ballyhooed series finale, no less an entertainment authority than Entertainment Weekly decided to live-tweet it. And here’s what they came up with (spoilers, etc.):

EW-breaking bad

Taking out of the equation the fact that a major television-heavy publication decided to point-for-point spoil a highly anticipated program hours before its West Coast airing, they didn’t even do it in an entertaining way. Memo: “live-tweeting” does not equal transcription. (And for the record: “his keys, which must control that gun thing?” GEE, YA THINK SO?) EW’s Breaking Bad live-tweet didn’t start a conversation or shed light on the program or toss out trivia or do anything anywhere in the vicinity of useful; it was, as someone smarter than me said, as if “somehow, they managed to live-tweet the internal monologue of Breaking Bad’s single stupidest fan.”

That’s a warning we can all take to heart — not only when live-tweeting, but when using social media in general. Have something to contribute. Make a joke, or craft an insight. Be droll or witty or sarcastic. But don’t just state the obvious, or announce someone’s arrival, or type a “LOL,” and then hit “tweet” like you’re the next Julie Klausner or something. But you can be! Let’s all try a little harder, and together, we can beat this thing.