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The Boob Tube

Study Shows That TV Viewers Prefer Not to Multita—Ooh, Twitter


Turns out that the “Technology is ruining our attention spans! People never talk face-to-face anymore! Waxing nostalgic about the pre-Internet era makes me feel superior to others! Grrrrrrr” apocalypse isn’t quite upon us: A study has found that an overwhelming majority of TV viewers still prefer to actually focus on what they’re watching instead of doing other things.

Sorry, second screen apps. You are doing your best.

The study, conducted by TiVo, found that 76% of those surveyed prefer it when “their primary focus is actually watching what’s on TV,” though said viewers (there’s no percentage, but I’m going to guess 100) say they have multitasked at one point or another. Of course. Sometimes popcorn needs poppin’. 73% say there are certain shows that they make sure not to Tweet or do anything else during, lest they miss “complex plot twists or dialogue.” It’s called the Game of Thrones Factor, though I’d rename it the Teen Wolf Effect. Don’t want to miss a second of those Dubstep Werewolf Battles. And if you blink you might mess that another non-white dude character got killed. Hey-oh!

Of those who do regularly multitask, their attention is taken up by (in descending order) surfing the web, cooking, and chatting online. I wonder where knitting falls on that list. That’s my activity of choice for shows that bug the crap out of me but that I just can’t stop watching. If I give certain characters (*cough*SnowWhitePrinceCharming*cough*) any more than 30% of my attention I put myself at risk of popping a vein.

The survey also took a look at our TV discussion habits, namely that 55% percent of viewers agreed with the statement “I only want to discuss TV with people I know, not with Internet strangers.” *glances askance at our recap category*

That three-quarters of people prefer not to update Twitter, check Tumblr, or Gchat while watching their shows seems high to me, though that just may be a product of my life, and the lives of most of the people I know, being quite Internet-centric. Personally, I’m in that 76%. How ’bout you? Or, to make it more interesting, let’s switch it to movies: What is the appropriate punishment for people who text/update Facebook/do not turn off their damn phones at a movie theater? Being suspended head-first into a barrel full of angry wasps?

(via The Hollywood Reporter, picture via Wikimedia Commons)

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  • Isaac Nolan

    Admittedly I can usually be seen texting or surfing the web while watching shows that aren’t quite interesting enough to keep my focus, but that I really want to know the ending to. (Yes, I’m that kind of person). That being said, any show that is well written and entertaining usually keeps my hands off my phone.

    Movies that I’ve already seen and I’m just watching at home for the heck of it? Yeah, phone out usually. But at the actual Cinema? No, just a complete and utter no, and anybody who does decide to be *that* person, should have to pay for everyone else in the cinema if they’re going to be so rude, harsh I know, but I’ve had enough bad experiences because of *that* person to really care at this point.

    *You know the one I’m talking about, the selfish idiot who apparently needs their text alert volume and brightness to be at the max, because who goes to the Cinema to watch a movie, right?

  • http://www.according2robyn.blogspot.com/ According2Robyn

    I almost never multitask while watching television these days, because now I can select and am watching something I’m actually interested in. Whereas, in the bad old days, television was more of a habit. I turned it on, flipped through the stations once, flipped back to the least annoying channel, and did something else while a lesser season of Night Court played in the background.

  • Cathy W

    For me, it definitely depends on the show. This week I tried following both Sleepy Hollow (which is total brain candy for me) and Supernatural (which I tend to watch kind of analytically) on Twitter while I watched. For Sleepy Hollow, it enhanced the experience for me, but for SPN it kept me from engaging with the show on the level I’d like (and that was the East Coast feed, where there wasn’t a lot of cast/crew tweeting…), and I felt like I had to rewatch to really get the most out of it. But I’m definitely in the 45% who enjoy discussing TV with Internet strangers – maybe because my friends and family aren’t into the same shows I am?

    And I also knit while I watch TV – again, depending on the show and the project. Low-concentration shows can have moderate-concentration projects, moderate-concentration shows can have low-concentration projects, and either shows or knitting involving high concentration demand brain monogamy.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t like their distinction (re: discussing TV) between “people I know” and “internet strangers” – there are plenty of people I talk to about things on the internet whom I’ve never met in “real life,”* and whose non-internet names I don’t know, but whom I feel I “know” in the sense of being familiar with their tastes. I’d rather talk to those people in a lot of cases than some of the people I encounter in person. Just distinguish between people we know and strangers – no need to bring judgment of the internet into it.

    *tangent: can we stop suggesting that internet social interactions aren’t real? They’re different from in-person interactions, sure, but they’re still interactions.

  • Laralock

    And this is why I can’t understand Xbox One. I’d never get anything watched.

  • Anonymous

    I definitely find this true. I pretty much never watch TV on my computer unless it’s something like an anime streaming I can’t watch on the actual television. And even then it usually takes me about an hour or so to finish a 22 minute episode because i’m constantly checking other tabs and stuff.

  • Isaac Nolan

    Honestly, just thank you for every point you made in this post. Literally hit the nail on the head about a lot of stuff that would’ve made the study much more reliable.

  • Ashe

    I don’t think I’m capable of doing anything that’s NOT multitasking. I’m playing a game, I’m also eating. I’m studying programming and talking on the phone. I’m listening to a podcast and I’m typing. I’m watching Attack On Titan and…wait, I think I found the exception.

    Also, the appropriate punishment for someone texting/updating their social media is to reenact this right next to them:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPnP_zlYU44

  • Robert McCoy

    I completely agree. TV has various levels of interest. Most of it I could care less about, but if you’re constantly texting, updating, or whatever the fuck you are doing while I’m trying to concentrate, GTFO. My house, my rules (of course, no one pays attention to this which will lead to my early death.)