Setting the second screen
Miko Malabute | Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Let’s establish something right now: At the risk of truly sounding “too millennial,” social media is a way of life.
Early last week, the sports world went up in flames as people expressed their frustrations and confusions: not because of the height of March Madness, not because of the absolutely outrageous material coming out of the different political campaigns, but because NBA superstar LeBron James unfollowed the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Twitter account. Never mind the fact that — with the NBA playoffs around the corner — LeBron has set a precedent for this last year with his “Zero Dark Thiry-23,” where “he avoids social media and the rest of the outside noise.” There are quite a few NBA superstars now who don’t follow their respective teams but are still on good terms with each other.
But this column is not about athletes and if they follow their teams on Twitter. What was more head-scratching was the backlash from the LeBron-Twitter news, countless people saying on their own Twitter accounts how this is a non-story. People brushing this off as a “non-story” because the nature of the story centers around Twitter, a social media platform that still feels “fun,” not holding the same weight as a hardcopy newspaper or a talking-head on a national news station. Let’s face the facts, though: Social media is now an integral part of our lives and how we consume popular culture. During every sporting event and television special, we are plugged into our timelines at the same time. Solely focusing on one screen is a thing of the past; the “second screen,” as it’s known, allows us to participate in the live global discussion that’s simultaneously happening.
So, we don’t get to say that this is a non-story because it evolved on Twitter or because it’s “just another instance of social media weakening the fibers of our society.” It is a story because of how prevalent social media has become in our lives, no matter if we’re the average Joe or LeBron James. In fact, social media has served as a mutually beneficial platform for celebrities and their fans.
The soccer web publication These Football Times described the effect social media has had on one of the world’s most well-known celebrities, Cristiano Ronaldo, and his brand. Not even seven years ago, Ronaldo and his team were doubtful when Facebook urged him to create a fan page with the potential to get 10 million followers. As of this day, Ronaldo has more than 110 million fans on Facebook. It is quite easy to imagine how celebrities are able to monetize their popularity, and with the omnipresence of social media, celebrities are also able to connect on a more personal level with their fans — giving us an in-depth look into their lives that was simply not feasible in the not-so-distant past.
The story of LeBron unfollowing the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Twitter account is admittedly pretty frivolous and would have been insignificant if this had occurred as recently as a decade ago. However, this story must be looked at through the lens of today’s culture — we can’t write this off as insignificant because we’re still afraid of social media. And LeBron can’t just dismiss this question because his brand is directly effected by the popularity of his social media platforms.
Social media has connected us as people and has opened up communication and dialogue in ways that we may not have thought as easy or feasible. The “second screen” will likely stay on for quite some time, and we need to acknowledge its importance.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.