Water-cooler conversations really are over. Officially. In fact, hands up anyone who has stood around a water cooler at all since 1995? Nope. It now sounds like something out of an ancient, yellowing Dilbert cartoon. You may as well send a fax or listen to the soothing ‘pssssskkkskskskskskhchakingchakingbingbing’ sound of a dial-up modem.
Yet we still chat about TV when we’re in the office. We still feel an urge to use telly talk as social adhesive. But, in reality, we are rapidly becoming unstuck in weird, unknown territory.
Ask people at work what they watched last night and you’ll receive answers that are bizarrely disparate, especially if your co-workers are at the younger end of the scale. “At the weekend I binge watched BBQ Pitmasters on Netflix,” said one (20-something) colleague before describing different cuts of meat, curing and marinating methods.
Another will have watched Korean soap operas on YouTube, while another will be deep into season 89 of House of Cards. Meanwhile, I am older and more analogue in my tastes and I very much doubt anyone wants to hear my long theories about why Count Arthur Strong is the saviour of British comedy because he gets his words mixed up and wears a funny hat. Not when there is the thrill of the grill, global soaps and Kevin Spacey to stream into your brain.
My personal relationship with TV is as a comfort blanket, a warm low burble in the corner.
This new kind of TV watching can also lead to potential stress and anxiety. The thing everyone says is: “You have to watch it, it’s so good.” This applies to everything. Even if it sounds less interesting/fun than picking fluff off the bottom of your sock, you invariably reply: “Hmm, I’ll have to watch that.” Then, when you’re back at home, you end up with the Netflix Pressure – a dead-eyed stress trance that makes you feel both overwhelmed with choice and culturally bereft. Will you ever feel enthusiastic about The OA? Why don’t you want to watch Riverdale or Black Mirror? Maybe there’s something WRONG with you. Everyone has Sky Atlantic and a Kodi box, even people’s mums, and you don’t! LOSER!
My personal relationship with TV is as a comfort blanket, a warm low burble in the corner. I don’t want terrifying jumps between quiet and loud, amplified by Sonos wireless speakers, or a convoluted, tricksy web series that lasts forever. I just want low-key, low-stakes crap. The next day I want to talk to people about Flog It! and Corrie and someone’s horrible bathroom in Homes Under the Hammer. Now, though, there seems to be too many ways you could become a social pariah or risk awkward silences while discussing what you watched.
Mind you, I do quite fancy the idea of BBQ Pitmasters. It sounds reassuringly terrible. And at least one person at the non-existent water cooler might know what I’m talking about.