why social networking struggles in the living room

Four people in front of a television in Stockholm Airport

Communal TV Viewing

I recently purchased, after some consideration, a new flat screen television with built-in wifi. One of the big selling points of TV manufacturers these days is integration with download services (for me, it had to come with iPlayer integration to be on my short list) and social networking platforms.

I just don’t get why someone would want Facebook, at least in its native format, on their television. Facebook is a personal experience, centred around an individual’s profile, whereas television viewing, at least in my household, is a communal experience – something an individual centric, profile based platform can’t natively support.

I’ve thought of a logical workaround, however – a Facebook app that allows all viewers (perhaps it could use the built in sensor to determine which family members are viewing) to be logged in simultaneously, with the newsfeed, potentially filtered by “updates related to what you are watching now”, appearing alongside the programme on screen.

By filtering for programme specific content, the app would deliver relevance, and extend the communal experience of watching to friends outside the home. Watching a documentary about New York? Your friends in New York will see an update inviting them to reply. Got a friend who is watching the same show? The app connects you.

The filter would also stop your kids from seeing content containing certain keywords, your partner from seeing posts from that ex you’ve sworn your no longer in touch with, etc etc – again, something I think presents a stumbling block to bringing Facebook into a communal TV viewing experience.

I struggle to think of any social networking or Internet service that have solved the challenge of communal usage. I’m often frustrated that it’s not possible to create, for example, a household iTunes account. We use my account on the iPads and Apple TV my family uses, but my wife’s phone has to have it’s own account, meaning iTunes content and app services aren’t available on her device.

It’s somewhat ironic that profile based services, whilst opening up a huge variety of communal experiences by diminishing the barriers of distance and time, don’t yet support shared experiences thru a single device. I don’t think there’s a huge space for communal social networking apps, but if someone does it right, perhaps by building an app like I’ve described for TV viewing above, I do think there would be a market for it.