"No context" Twitter accounts show that we're not just consuming TV differently online—the programs themselves are being changed to suit our new, internet-focussed viewing habitsby Harry Harris / May 15, 2019 / Leave a comment
On January 2nd, Netflix tweeted the trailer for its new original show Sex Education, a Skins-esque high-school coming of age sitcom set in Wales, from its Twitter account. As is the way with these things, the trailer was retweeted by the program’s official account to try and drum up a following there, too.
However, the official Sex Education account wasn’t set up for cast announcements or any additional content. Rather, its intention was clear from its name: “no context sex education.” Its first tweet was a screengrab of the main character, Otis, in a swimming pool, with the closed caption: “She touched my eyebrows and now I have an erection.”
“No context” Twitter accounts are exactly what they sound like: they post screengrabs, gifs, or clips from a specific tv show without any accompanying explanation or description.
The effect of this is two-fold. Firstly, people unfamiliar with the show can get a quick, visual indication of what the tone or vibe of the program is, without having to put some headphones on and watch a trailer (handy for those browsing in offices, or in public on their phone).
Secondly, fans of the show have a ready-to-use library of memes. Given memes are now an integral part of the vocabulary of social media—used as punchlines or as a reaction to other people’s posts—it’s essentially like people have been given a new set of emojis to use.
— no context sex education (@sexeducation) January 2, 2019
These accounts exist for all manner of TV shows, as well as podcasts, video games, and YouTube channels. Ru Paul’s Drag Race has a no context account.That 70s Show has a no context account. Derry Girls has one. Fleabag doesn’t yet, but someone has registered the username for one, so y’know, any minute now.
The popularity of these and other accounts helps explain why Netflix made the decision to promote Sex Education in this way. But what does it say about the way we consume art that these accounts are so ubiquitous in the first place? Does art need to work in this chopped-up, out-of-context way to become popular in contemporary culture?
First, let’s talk about what context is. Context is a set of rules that help us understand the text put before us. These rules can be set out by the text itself, as often happens in science-fiction where the logic of the world must be explained before we can make sense of the action unfolding, or it…