Live-tweeting while watching TV makes show less enjoyable, study finds

STORRS, Conn. — If you enjoy live-tweeting your thoughts while watching your favorite television shows each night, there’s a good chance the show may be less exciting than if you were to view it uninterrupted. A new study finds that switching back and forth between Twitter and TV makes it harder for a person to escape reality and enjoy the show they’re watching.

Researchers from the University of Connecticut wanted to see how the growing trend of live-tweeting affected a television viewing experience. Prior research has found that more than half of young adults ages 18-24 use social media for discussion and opinion-sharing while watching TV.

For their study, the authors recruited 230 college students and split them into two groups. One group was asked to post at least five tweets on Twitter while watching a half-hour episode of the sitcom “Friends.” The other group watched the same show without using social media, or any other device for that matter. After the show ended, participants completed a survey on the experience.

Researchers found that participants who weren’t live-tweeting during the show felt more connected to the program. That’s because they were able to more strongly experience a phenomenon known as “transportation,” which occurs when the viewer, in a sense, “transports” into the content and becomes more immersed and engaged with the show.

“The findings support the assumption that media multitasking decreases people’s experience of transportation, which then impairs their emotional responses; reduced emotions further decrease enjoyment of the show,” the authors write.

Researchers hope to further examine how social media use affects one’s ability to enjoy a program considering so many programs today ask the viewer to use social media while watching a show.

“Despite its popularity, live-tweeting has potential pitfalls on audience experience,” says Saraswathi Bellur, an assistant professor in communication at the university, in a statement.

The study is published in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media.