In the age of smart TVs, streaming AV, and on-demand programming, we don’t have that many shared media moments anymore. Even as we enjoy “Peak TV,” with more new shows on Netflix, HBO, Showtime, and Amazon than most of us could possibly watch, it’s getting harder and harder to find common experiences.
For me, shared media moments and favorite TV shows and movies have always been a great social elixir. If I could find a new TV series or movie release to talk about, I could usually buy some time at a party or industry event as I warmed up to new acquaintances. Get a fellow GenXer started on old Seinfeld and Simpsons lines or Spielberg nostalgia, and I’m good to go.
While I keep trying to connect with my peers about my latest binge watch or even real-time prestige TV moments like Game of Thrones, for my daughters, who are 12 and 9, media consumption habits are a lot different. Whether it’s the Harry Potter movies or La La Land for one or Cupcake Wars and The Voice for the other, their favorites rarely converge with each other, let alone with those of their friends. Apple TV, cable TV, and the internet simply provide too many options and distractions.
It’s not a bad thing, of course, that we’re no longer all watching the same things; the endless variety of content available now allows people to explore and develop their own unique interests. Still, it just seems a little lonely missing out on those shared memories. That’s why when my oldest daughter, Ella, told me that “everyone” in the sixth grade was talking about Netflix’s series, Stranger Things, I quickly (and somewhat irresponsibly) gave her the green light to start watching Season 1 during a friend’s sleepover in our basement home theater. I was just about to wrap up Season 2, so I not only looked forward to connecting with her about the episodes and characters and also wanted to give her an opportunity to relate to what her friends were discussing.
Alas, the experience didn’t really live up to the hype. While Ella seemed to enjoy the show well enough, the excitement about it at school lasted just about as long as most things do for the Snapchat generation. Maybe, however, when my daughter and her classmates are away at college, hanging out with their roommates, and trying to relate about something… anything, someone will bring up shows like Stranger Things that they all watched as tweens, even though they didn’t really “get” all of those 1980s references that made their parents feel so nostalgic.
So what will the shared culture be for generations who come of age in this on-demand entertainment era? There will certainly be some common thread they can call up to break the ice, just as there was before the invention of movies and mass media.
Perhaps it will be the actual technology used to consume media that they’ll reminisce about, recalling their old iPads, “smart” phones, and 4K TVs with HDR technology that seemed so amazing when they were kids. You know, when everything seemed so simple.