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Philip Larkin Headshot

Social Media Holding a 'Black Mirror' Up to Nature

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Social media is wonderfully overwhelming at times. One thing I adore most about this lovely thing is the growing relationship between social media and the visual arts. Any Twitter user reading this will be more than aware of the huge impact of such event television as BBC's Frozen Planet, The X Factor or Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror on our online social streams. Twitter and Facebook come alive with satirical comments, empathetic offerings and hashtagged titbits of information that are alien to anyone NOT watching the shows.

For those who don't tweet with the rest of us, here's an example of how engaging this phenomenon can become! I don't watch X Factor. I never have and probably never will. It doesn't really interest me in the slightest (same goes for football, documentaries about travellers getting married and anything featuring Kirstie fucking Allsopp); but I could easily tell you who won X Factor final, the names of last 10 contestants, who sparked which controversy, what Gary said about Louis - the lot.

I know all of this information, only because my stream is full of tweets about X Factor both during and after broadcast, as most of those whom I follow are engaging with other viewers and creating a uniquely enriched viewing experience which quite frankly, blows my mind.

What I have been watching religiously, is Frozen Planet. Such a wonderful show, recently criticised for faking a scene where a Polar Bear nurses her cubs.

What's that, you ask!? Faking? So they used fake polar bears? No. Real polar bears? Yes. Wait, so they weren't fake animals? No. So, what - they faked an entire segment? Yes. Shit, how long did it last? 15 seconds. But the other 59 minutes and 45 seconds was filmed on location? Aye. So what's the problem? Nothing really; but the newspapers said we should be cross, so we're being cross! Ah, I see - the newspapers also told you to be interested in Wayne Rooney's hair transplant didn't they? Yes. Yes they did.

Moving on. Frozen Planet was an excellent example of 'event television' and social media really opened up the experience to something which years ago, wouldn't have really made sense to anyone. The social stream surrounding the show invoked so much interest that it undoubtedly opened up the nature documentary to a whole new audience - those who spend their days on the computer. I am one of those people and we as a community are evolving.

There's a great sense of togetherness that comes from this magical shared experience of joining in the chat by tweeting and interacting with others during a show.

In the wake of social media playing a large part in worldwide coverage of disasters, newspaper hacking scandals and more - we are evolving and we're beginning to get used to joining in the conversation on a massive scale.

Black Mirror has caused quite an interesting stir on Twitter. Brooker's show has engaged with audiences so well, that you can actually watch the hype building before the show. Throughout which, you get the occasional 'OMG' or 'WTF', all hashtagged with #BlackMirror for searchability - and once the show ends, Brooker (whose Twitter username is @CharltonBrooker) is applauded. 'Well done @CharltonBrooker - great show!'

This is mental. Look at us, growing up and becoming an engaged audience (again). It's like the good old days! The theatre! We're actually talking to one another about the spectacle, instead of sitting on the couch like a massive lump in front of the television. I'm not even fucking sure what a television is anymore, because it's easier to stream EVERYTHING on your laptop as and when you please.

In fact, I'm not even sure if I still have a couch anymore; between smaller, thinner laptops and streaming on smartphones, it's easy for me to join the conversation from my bed and my favourite viewing spot - the bath (and toilet (shush)).

Viewing experiences are changing and actually - the way we create stuff is changing too. Twitter throws everyone into the big mix (that's BIG, not little - this is certainly not an endorsement of popular drivel) and more and more we're seeing transparency when it comes to upcoming film, television and arts projects. It was through Twitter that I sourced a director, cast and crew for my upcoming project, Pat & Joe Take a Bath; I even managed to snare Kevin Pollak (Usual Suspects, A Few Good Men) for one of the lead roles.

The film goes into production in 2012; all because social media made a wealth of resources readily available to me. Social media is changing the way we see art and it's changing the way we make art. Social media: It's #bloodybrilliant.