How Social Media Has Changed Award Shows

This past weekend marked the 86th Annual Academy Awards honoring the year’s best efforts in film. History was made, not only through the accomplishments of the Academy’s nominees, but also on…..Twitter.

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Yes, you read that right. This year’s Oscars had a distinct social media theme carried throughout, a vast change from the tradition of elegance and exclusivity that have become synonymous with the Academy’s name. Host Ellen DeGeneres broke the record for most retweeted tweet with her all-star selfie, taken during the live broadcast. The post racked up 1.3 million retweets in a half hour. In the three days since the show, the tweet has nearly tripled in shares, hitting a high of 3.2 million retweets. The previous record holder was a tweet from President Obama from his victorious re-election party, which had more than 780,000 retweets in November of 2012.

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Not only did Ellen openly campaign to get viewers to retweet her selfie in attempts to break the record, the bit became a running joke throughout the broadcast. I don’t know about you, but I felt that although Ellen was a funny, likeable host, the social media schtick as well as the impromptu pizza party (another bit that went viral and set Twitter and Tumblr abuzz) cheapened the elegant and monumental event the Academy Awards are known to be. Who would have ever expected to see Brad Pitt handing out paper plates in a tux?

Aside from the Twitter madness Ellen spearheaded, social media has been playing a larger, almost starring role, at all awards shows this season. Red carpet photos trend before they are even aired on television, award winners are announced — and debated — in real time. Mistakes, awkward trip ups, and quirky speeches live on in .gif form, immortalized on Twitter, Tumblr, and Reddit, before the show even finishes airing. Take John Travolta’s mispronunciation of performer Idina Menzel’s name, for example. Within an hour, a “How would Travolta pronounce your name?” generator was created and making the rounds on social media networks, a Twitter account for “Adele Dazim” (Idina’s apparent new alter-ego) was created and wreaking havoc, and the actor was forced to issue a comment on the unfortunate mistake. While mishaps like this one are embarrassing, they are sometimes unavoidable due to the fact these shows are broadcasted live. They should not define the show, or be the most memorable moment days later — that honor should be given to the night’s winners and performers and their special moments on stage.

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It is apparent that social media culture has taken away from the intended focus of these shows: the talented people and pieces of work that are put up as nominees. Instead, best and worst dressed debates clutter the next day coverage, in addition to Instagram and Twitter round ups that collect posts celebrities sent out during the show and the after parties. Viewers are encouraged to tweet in commentary, and pre and post show coverage usually feature “What’s Trending on Twitter?” boards to show which celebrities are the most popular at the moment. In fact, I would bet it’s safe to say that even non-viewers know about the outfits, the mishaps, and the gossip from these events, more so even than they know about who took home these coveted awards.

As someone who loves the Academy Awards, and awards season in general, I am not sure I am a fan of the way social media has shifted the focus and changed the way these events are covered. I suppose it is a necessary and inevitable adjustment, due to the social media culture that has rapidly developed over the past few years, but is it worth losing tradition and respect?

Ameara Harb

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