In just a few minutes, the Oscars will begin. Six-to-twelve-hours of pre-show, red carpet show, awards show, post-awards show! I will be watching the whole thing, but only because of Twitter.
Here is me watching the Oscars before Twitter: Sigh. Turn on the TV. Say, "That's not funny" out loud after an unfunny monologue joke. Look around to make sure no one heard me, which they didn't, because I'm alone. Look at the clock. Sigh. Imagine Halle Berry naked. Sigh. Get a glass of water. Mute the TV. Try to imagine Halle Berry is thanking me for being such an inspirational and passionate lover in her acceptance speech. Unmute the TV. Stare at the ceiling. Turn off the TV after about forty minutes and read a book.
Here is me watching the Oscars with Twitter: Turn on the TV. Turn on the computer. See dozens of tweets in my feed about the dumb clothes everyone is wearing. Laugh. Add my own tweet about how dumb the clothes are. Retweet someone's funny joke. See if anyone has retweeted my joke. Feel good in proportion to the number of retweets my joke got. Click on the #oscars trending topic and scroll through the crazy cacophony of everyone, usually off in their own little twittersphere of #blackstuffblackpeopledo or #indierockbookstorenames or whatever, for once all talking about the same thing; everyone is trying to outdo all of the rest of the Internet in making fun of an actresses' teary acceptance speech, or maybe even pointing out something they like. (Probably not, though.)
My mind is sharpened: I watch carefully for some detail that might be worth mocking, knowing that each pixel will probably be the subject of millions of other users' scorn. I write something about a weird face some barely-famous actor made in the crowd, then am surprised that dozens of other people noticed that same weird face, even though it only flashed on the screen for about 1/10th of a second. A minute later, I click on a link to an animated .gif someone made of the actor's face and retweet it.
Etc., etc., until the end of the show.
After this year's Golden Globes, Vanity Fair columnist James Wolcott scolded people like me who watched awards shows just to make fun of them with other people: "Critics/bloggers/tweeters who act glibly superior to the Globes are just flattering themselves—the very fact that they're watching it makes them part of the charade, complicit bystanders, no matter what UV shade of attitude they adopt for the evening."
Fair enough. But my favorite part about Twitter is that everyone seems to understand the absurd position they're in, watching something for hours and not simply not enjoying it, but actively expending effort to write about how little they enjoy it.
"Can't wait to watch the Oscars with a bunch of friends in complete silence, while we all post our best quips to Twitter," Tweeted comedian Todd Levin today. Whether it's the Golden Globes the VMAs or the Oscars, Twitter during an awards show is an abject hivemind sustained by the thing it despise most, and it wallows hilariously in the contradiction. Half the fun is collectively thwarting the logic that would lead any one person to just turn the damn TV off. As far as viewing experiences goes, it's as complex as a seasoned film critic watching the latest Werner Herzog flick, but anyone can experience it just by shooting their own 140 characters of idiotic meanness into the void.
Anyway, the Oscars are about to start. See you on Twitter, you miserable bastards.