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Monday, February 28, 2011

Twitter, Snark, and the Oscars

Last night I watched the first half of the Oscars with other people, and I watched the second half while on my laptop. It really was an amazing difference. It’s true that I found James Franco’s hosting a little withdrawn and unengaged, but the show wasn’t going all that terribly. Every little thing that felt a little off was just brushed aside until the next one. Oprah Winfrey lingering by the microphone a few seconds too long was just a funny little thing.

But when I logged on to Twitter I was surprised to discover that I had been watching the worst Oscars telecast of all time. (Quick question: How many moments from the last five Oscars do you vividly remember?) This, I was told, was a train wreck, derailing the careers of its hosts and threatening to kill Kirk Douglas with its length and tediousness.

What gives? It’s the Twitter model. Twitter is less a site for conversations than it is a venue for one-liners, with the best ones being retweeted by others, leading to more followers and thus higher prestige. It’s a market that only rewards extreme opinions. Would you be wowed by the wit of someone who tweeted, “That was ok” after the host’s opening monologue?

Even most of the people tweeting their little jokes about the telecast had to be doing it without truly believing what they were saying. Everyone who complained about how long the show was going had to know that the Oscars always go long. This year was pretty good, actually, running only 15 minutes long. You try timing a live event where 24 people are invited to give speeches.

The point is, that much negativity bubbling up so quickly and so unanimously can’t be a good thing, especially with almost no optimism to counterbalance it. Can social media really be a valuable tool if it almost by necessity demands cynicism and shuns sincerity? I don’t think I’d like to live in a world where the people who panned the Oscars had to plan the show themselves.

P.S. Please don’t take this to mean we shouldn’t criticize Franco’s performance. He was dreadful in the worst way imaginable, as if he knew what he was doing would piss most people off, and he didn’t care. That’s unforgivable in an event that it supposed to be fun.

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