We see the term the "second screen" thrown around all the time, a concept that refers to the belief that the immediacy of social media across phones and tablets makes television watching a communal experience. The thinking goes that Twitter and Facebook are portals into our consumption habits, allowing us to hurl breathless critiques—and, sometimes, spoiler alerts—into the digital ether.
We've also seen Twitter flirt with TV networks. The service has reportedly spent "hundreds of millions of dollars" developing a rating system similar to the traditional system long used by the advertising biz. And it's widely held that this is why Facebook adopted some of Twitter's more popular features, like trending topics and hashtags.
But a new report suggests that the second screen's overall footprint might actually be smaller than previous metrics suggested. A new survey of 1,665 respondents ages 15 to 54 from the Council for Research Excellence, a media research group funded by Nielsen, found that just 16.1% of all respondents used social media while watching prime time television. (Those respondents were said to be representative of people who actually go online.) What's more: Less than half of those people on social media were talking about what they were watching at all.
The most interesting takeaway, though, might be this from the New York Times:
Facebook was by far the most popular social network for people chatting during shows, used by about 11.4% of TV watchers, compared with 3.3% for Twitter.
A few things worth noting: Facebook is much larger than Twitter. And the fractured way we consume media now between Netflix, HBO Go, and even torrents means digitally savvy people can watch prime time television whenever they want, effectively nullifying the real-time component.
Still, the report provides an interesting window into our current state of TV watching, i.e., when we watch TV, we're actually watching TV—no matter what a hashtag like the #RedWedding might suggest.