Social Media on Script

It’s funny how often we hear about social media on TV shows and movies. We are so used to hearing about it that we don’t think twice when a character references Facebook or Instagram – these social networks play such a huge role in our lives that they come up in most of our real-life conversations. Being in two Internet-focused classes, I’ve started to pay more attention to these references.

I watch a lot of Friends on Netflix. (I’m convinced it’s going to kill my GPA this semester.) In each episode, there is at most one or two references about the landline phone. I don’t think about the absence of technology when I watch the show, except for the occasional “I wish she could text him on his cell” thought when, say, Rachel wanted to stop Ross from getting on his plane to China.

But when I watch a show that was produced in the past 2-3 years, it’s different. The actors are always holding cell phones. There is normally a statement or joke about Facebook. It really hit me today how influential social networking was on television shows when I watched the newest Saturday Night Live episode. In the opening skit, a young boy had a conversation with Martin Luther King, Jr. about modern-day protests. The boy told MLK, Jr. that if he wanted to protest, all he had to do was get on Twitter and write “#weareFerguson.” MLK, Jr., played by Kenan Thompson, looked dumbfounded to find that people pressed on a screen to do what people risked their lives to accomplish 50 years ago.

The next skit on SNL was about Instagram. It was literally titled “Why’d You Post That?”. The skit showed a slideshow of stupid posts made by Instagram users that we all could compare to people we follow. (Of course, if my parents watched the skit, they probably wouldn’t understand the joke.)

It’s a subtle influence that social media has on the world, mostly because people growing up in this generation are used to seeing social media everywhere. But to watch the show as a parent, it’s probably a completely different experience. Even as a student learning about the influence of Internet on society, I notice the drastic changes in subjects of TV episodes and parodies. It will be interesting to watch a show like Friends or old SNL episodes ten years from now.

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