Did something really happen if no one on Twitter noticed? The conversation around the Oscars, or any live event for that matter, might well be the most entertaining aspect of watching it. Twitter is where pop culture devotees gather around to joke and debate; the watercooler for our digital age. And as this year’s Academy Awards showed, Twitter has become so essential to the television-watching experience that even the ceremony has built it in.
The Oscars went meta this year, with host Ellen DeGeneres constantly tweeting selfies—including an A-list movie-star-heavy picture that set Twitter ablaze, temporarily crashing service. Accepting her Best Actress trophy, Cate Blanchett told Julia Roberts to “hashtag Suck It”. Best Supporting Actress winner Lupita Ngyong’o’s headband now has a Twitter handle of its own, much like Angelina Jolie’s leg from 2012. And John Travolta, who introduced Best Song performer Idina Menzel as “Adele Dazim”, will have to put up the gentle and not-so-gentle internet mockery that the combined forces of his flub and his devotion to Scientology will undoubtedly result in.
The Oscars are particularly suited to the snark Twitter thrives on. But more and more, watching a telecast is a community event, only it is online. Broadcasting a reaction on Twitter is the electronic equivalent of turning to a friend in shock and disbelief when, say, the Red Wedding goes down. And when hundreds or thousands share your reaction or deploy inappropriate humour, it feeds into the collective pop-culture-obsessed consciousness, however ephemeral the moment may be. There are some concerns that in the rush to capture the moment and share it with the world, we may not be actually living it as fully as we could. But really, where else could you see Best Actor Matthew McConaughey's megalomania treated with the respect it deserves—that is, none?