It's the monday morning scenario in every country outside the U.S. You wake up, turn on your laptop and seconds later you are bombarded with what the internet has been gushing about while you slept. Whether it's the latest shockers on Game of Thrones or the released episodes of Arrested Development, the whole cyber world seems to be talking about one thing. And you have no idea what it is.
It's the classic entrapment. The internet is a world wide community, but sadly, television isn't. There's no going around it. Whatever happened on TV last night -- people are going to want to discuss it. And the fact that the rest of the world is still in the dark is not going to keep them from it. The more surprising it is, the more spoilers you'll find just moments after air.
The most recent monday tragedy was "The Rains of Castamere" episode of Game of Thrones. Everyone on the internet took part. Even people who never watched the show were interested in knowing what happened that stirred every other person on Facebook. Articles, Memes, reaction videos on Youtube -- there was just nowhere to hide. Now imagine having to wait at least three days until your country airs this episode. Usually, it's longer than that.
The trouble with this is that these two mediums still aren't in sync. It's not even just the american based sites. Most countries have local online news sites and magazines reporting things that you're not supposed to know yet. It's not uncommon to enter a major local news site outside the U.S, and see a headline exposing the winner of an american reality show, that's still weeks behind in airing at the same country. It begs to ask: 'who is this piece of news directed at'? If you're interested in the winner's identity, it means you're probably watching this show, and have no desire to be spoiled about who won. And if you don't watch the show, why would you even care about the winner? This is exactly the sort of thing that gets lost in news sites' desire to stay current, and bring you the same news the rest of the internet is bringing, without considering that maybe this time the news can, and should, wait.
There's a simple solution to this mess. And it lies with on-demand online viewing. Currently, websites like Netflix and Hulu are not available world wide. Many foreign TV watchers will gladly pay for online content, but simply don't have the option to do so. This makes it almost impossible for internet users to keep themselves from downloading TV shows illegally.
A recent article noted that Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in this television season. It's clear that such a show, that's filled with suspense and surprising developments, is one that should be watched immediately after airing. While people don't feel the need to keep dated on shows like Two and a Half Men, that are episodic, Game of Thrones has to be devoured fast to avoid spoilers. Granted, most illegal downloads still come from within the U.S. But it must be common outside of it. In the fight against piracy, many foreign networks are spending big money on getting TV shows on the air as shortly after the original american premiere as they can. Still, this could be a tough job since many networks have to have the shows subtitled or dubbed. No matter how fast they work, it will never be a match for the immediacy of the internet.
But it's not just non-americans that are hurt from the internet's constant chatting about television. People in the U.S are no less affected. The rise of video on demand and DVRs was supposed to change the way people watch. You have the episodes available at any time, and you can choose the right time to watch. But in reality, you can't actually choose your own schedule. You can wait, but at your own risk. If you don't watch immediately, you better stay away from the net, because other people weren't as patient as you. Online discussion is going to happen with or without you. If you want to be a part of it, you better binge watch like everyone else. At least with normal broadcast networks you don't have the illusion that you're in control.
If there ever was a reason to unite the world, and create one single country, gathering every citizen on earth -- I'm guessing being synced on television episodes would be it.