In August 2012, the Canadian television show Murdoch Mysteries aired its final episode on CityTV. The mystery-drama set in late 1890’s Toronto had been cancelled, but luckily it had been picked up by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (“Murdoch Mysteries Rescued,” 2011). On the other side of the country, I decided to make an Instagram fan account to promote the show, in hopes of it gaining more popularity. It had been cancelled on CityTV due to low viewer numbers. I had only recently joined Instagram but thought it might be a fun hobby. Pictures posted included stills from the episodes, behind the scenes photos, and other various related images.
Flash forward to four years later: season ten is airing, I am still running the fanpage, which has over 5100 followers (more than my hometown’s entire population), a Twitter page to accompany it, and daily interaction from fans, cast and crew members from the show. I have found it incredibly fun as well as rewarding to communicate with other fans and the actors from Murdoch Mysteries. The show has definitely increased in popularity- the average episode nets over a million viewers in Canada, over double what CityTV achieved while airing the show. The online gathering of Murdoch fans have made me feel connected to a community in a way I had never experienced. Having a shared interest in this show, with people all over the world has changed the way I use and view social media in relation to how communities are formed and how societies function.
Harold Innis, (Mass Communications, 2016) a Canadian communications theorist, claimed “that each of the many communication mediums have particular biases and unique influences on social structure” (pg 42). Oral communication has a time bias due to emphasis on close societies- the preservation of shared history helps people connect in a society. The medium of written communication has a space bias because of the focus on social relations through physical realm. I believe it is true that the online world is becoming a new form of oral society. Presently, it is easier to communicate with someone around the world than ever before-it takes only a mere second to send and receive a message. In oral societies, the members preserve their history and knowledge of the past. My experience represents this visually by all the posts I make on the account, as I help preserve the fan side of Murdoch Mystery history. Anyone can preserve anything online, securing the belief that online communities are definitely a new form of oral communities.
However, there is a distinct difference between societies and communities. A society is a more general term, used for describing institutions and relationships in which a large group of people live. By definition, a community is “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” Unlike communities, societies are not based on shared interest; therefore the fans cannot be described as a society. A notable observation is that although communities are often location based, the community of Murdoch Mysteries fans is global and the only specific place it is found is online.
Something else I have observed while running this fanpage is that people are quite opinionated when it comes to television preferences. I understand that people easily consume media tailored to them, and form opinions if they enjoy or do not enjoy what is being presented. I currently hold the opinion where I think there’s a close-knit group of Murdoch fans that not only tweet at each other online but meet up occasionally. However, I have learned that opinions can’t be proven true outside of the fact someone believes in them (“No, It’s Not Your Opinion,” 2016). Nine thousand Murdoch fans may share that Thomas and Margaret, two of the main characters, need more screen time together. That’s a valid opinion. However, if they said Thomas and Margaret get absolutely no screen time, that would be wrong, and other fans would easily be able to point out facts contrary to that statement. The problem with digital communication is that irrelevant opinions clutter up the exchange of factual information. With the majority of media in the current day being digital, people have the privilege to continually interact more and form relationships with other individuals online.
With the power of creating media comes the power of creating new societies while preserving the old. Within these societies, individual people are becoming connected so they can share ideas, interests and cultural understandings. Experiencing the feeling of community digitally is important, so that we can raise a collective global consciousness about how and why connect with each other. I am appreciative to have had a positive experience within a community online, and hope to continue to do so.