Michelle Teheux: Etiquette changes in the digital age

Michelle Teheux

Recently I had the (apparently) bad manners to talk about the most recent episode of “Sherlock” I had seen on PBS.

Someone on Facebook was upset that I and a few others had discussed TV shows that had already aired but that she had not seen.

I always considered a TV show that has already aired to be perfectly fair game to discuss, without prefacing comments with anything like “Spoiler alert!” 

Like most people, if I’m talking about a movie, I’ll make sure the other person has already seen it before mentioning that surprise twist at the end.

People might see movies at any time. They run for weeks, and naturally not every person is going to see that movie the first night it opens.

Broadcast TV, I thought, was different.

A show is on at a given time, and you watch it if you’re interested or you don’t if you aren’t.

Or at least, that’s how I thought it was.

I’m content to watch a TV show at the time when the network feels like presenting it. That system has worked fine for me.

I only watch two shows regularly — “Saturday Night Live” and “Masterpiece.” 

And, it should go without saying, I watch “SNL" on Saturday night, and I watch “Masterpiece” on Sunday night. That’s when they’re on, and that’s when I watch them.

Apparently the rest of the world (actually, around 40 percent of U.S. households) now has DVRs and watches shows when they darn well feel like watching them. Which shouldn’t affect me one bit, right? What do I care if they watch “SNL” at 3 a.m. Tuesday and “Masterpiece” at noon on Thursday?

I don’t, except that now it seems one cannot make any comments about TV shows (and for sports fans, whatever big game has just been played) because whoever you are talking to, whether in real life or on social media, might be a DVR person, not a broadcast person.

Back in the day, nobody had more than a couple of channels, so almost everybody watched the same few shows, and talked about them the next day. It was a bit of a shared experience. Nowadays there are so many bajillions of shows to watch that the chances that your neighbor watched the same thing last night that you did are pretty small. That’s been going on for a while. But now, even if you do watch the same shows, the chances that you watched them at the same time are remote.

I had no idea that DVR had changed the world to such an extent. I still have only a handful of free-via-the-airwaves TV channels, which I watch on my non-flat-screen TV. And I’m not interested in devoting any more of my time or my money to TV.

Still, I’m not ready to give up on TV altogether. I admit that I do really enjoy watching my two favored TV shows. And sometimes I like to talk to other people about them. Wasn’t Mick Jagger’s performance on “SNL” great? What, exactly, happened to Sherlock on Sunday night? I really don’t know — my TV blue-screened-out on me several times right at the end. That’s an aggravation you have to deal with if you refuse to shell out bucks for cable.

I’m on the wrong side of the digital divide by choice, and mostly content to remain so. 

The only difficulty is in finding out the old-fashioned way is now considered, at least by some, to be the rude way.

But if somebody wants to tell me exactly what happened in the last few minutes of “Sherlock” on Sunday night, I promise I won’t mind a bit.

Michelle Teheux may be reached at mteheux@pekintimes.com.