The strains of the “As The World Turns” or “All My Children” opening music are embedded in my little-kid memories, playing in the background as my mom cleaned the kitchen or folded laundry and I sat on the floor playing with my dolls. I don’t remember my mom being more loyal to one program or network than another; in fact, I’m not even sure she was actually watching the soaps. They were just…there, and let’s face it, in the late 70s and early 80s there wasn’t a whole lot else on daytime TV.
Fast forward a few decades, and I’m the one at home during the day with small kids. Only I don’t think my kids even know what a soap opera is.
If the TV does happen to be on, which it usually isn’t, I’m likely to be watching “House Hunters” or “Designed to Sell” on HGTV. But overwhelmingly, the background noise of my kids’ daily lives is the gentle click-click-click of my fingers on the keyboard.
Part of that’s because I’m a writer working from home. My two-year-old daughter Clara often sits at a table just behind me painting or coloring while I check my email, outline chapters, or blog. But she, and the rest of my kids, also hear me guffaw over particularly funny tweets or gasp out loud at shocking news on Facebook.
When I stumbled across parenting bulletin boards in 1997, shortly after my first son was born, I quickly learned that you’ll never find a more interesting cast of characters than online personas: the self-proclaimed gurus, the perpetual victims, even the super-dedicated trolls. These semi-real people drew me in far deeper than Bo and Hope or Dixie and Tad ever could. And now that practically everyone (and your grandmother) are on social media, no wonder soap operas are on their last legs.
Fact is, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs have become the new soap operas. All the things that the soaps offered, like drama and beautiful people, can now be found on my laptop. Since getting way too caught up in virtual spats years ago, I’ve actually made a large effort to avoid getting personally involved in online spectacles. But every now and then I find myself sitting back and watching a virtual train wreck, and it’s even more interesting than a soap opera because I actually know (sort of) the real people involved.
I’ve seen marriages fall apart on Facebook (awkward!), cheating spouses get called out on Twitter, and friends turn against one another in the comments sections of blogs. Intrigue, comedy, scandal, tragedy – it’s all there, and we simply don’t have to turn on the television anymore to find it. And as for beautiful people? Well, bloggers have figured out a way to scratch that itch, too. Just check out Amanda’s beautiful crafts, or Deb’s beautiful food, or Nie Nie’s beautiful family, or even Ree’s beautiful cows. There’s no shortage of eye candy online, and these days you don’t have to travel further than Pinterest to find it.
So what does that mean for shows like “All My Children” and “One Life to Live”, which were recently taken off the air but will now, according to the Wall Street Journal, return in an online-only capacity? Well, I think it’s a forward-thinking move, but I’m not so sure it’ll work. Beyond drama, blogs and social media have also allowed us to tap into super-specific interests and interact with the characters who bring us the content. Modern audiences don’t just want to be entertained; we want to be part of the show.
Come to think of it, maybe producers could capitalize on interactivity, niche audiences, and loyalty to popular characters by giving them all blogs. For example, Erica Kane could write a beauty blog and Sami Brady could write a mom blog. They could all show up in one another’s comments sections and Twitter feeds to start fights and affairs.
But I wonder: who’d be the soap-star coupon blogger?
Do you watch the soaps? Or is your Facebook feed enough of a soap opera for you?
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