I recently read that some theaters in Boston are thinking about setting up special seating areas for patrons who feel compelled to let their Twitter followers in on every detail of a show as it happens.
Being a rather huge fan of live-tweeting meetings, I was kind of surprised at my first reaction to the idea—namely, horror. At first I thought, well sure, the whole point of going to a theatrical production is to get lost in the story, the sights and sounds, the experience of being there. Tweeting would pull you out of the experience, not to mention interfere with the enjoyment of those around you who'd rather not see your screen aglow and hear your thumbs a-clicking (the latter is the reason some theaters want separate sections for the tweet-obsessed). And the tweets quoted in the article aren't exactly going to add much to anyone's experience. To wit:
At the Palm Beach Opera this month, tweeters updated followers on the tragic love story between an American officer and a geisha in Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.’’ “Cio-cio san is telling it like it is! #pbobutterfly,’’ one tweeter wrote. “Butterfly will die. Goosebumps. #pbobutterfly,’’ wrote another.
Hmm, scintillating and insightful—I can see how those tweets couldn't wait an hour (sorry, couldn't help getting a bit sarcastic).
But is this really all that different from live-tweeting a conference? Ideally, you should be caught up in the experience of the session as well (and, actually, I often am, and have to stop tweeting so I can just soak it all in). Does being both a participant and a simultaneous interpreter of the experience diminish it somehow? Is that only true for entertainment, and not for education?
Can anyone help me figure out why in my brain tweeting at a movie or Broadway show is unthinkable, but tweeting a conference is just fine? I can't quite figure it out. And on an ancillary note, would it be useful for the non-tweeters to have special tweeting sections at conferences? I can see how the tapping could be distracting, but I'm not convinced it would be necessary.