April 2 Update: Chronicle of Higher Education coverage of this story.
Okay, where to begin.
I used to watch the show Friday Night Lights fairly regularly, via Netflix, after reading the umpteenth review that, besides The Wire, it was some of the best TV out there. I lost touch with it and happended to be flipping channels two weeks ago on a Friday night when lo and behold, not only is it on, but one of the main characters, Lyla Garrity, is talking about coming to Vanderbilt in the fall. “Cool,” I thought. (I know, I’m deep).
A few days later I was logged into the Vanderbilt Twitter feed, and noticed a Lyla Garrity was following Vanderbilt. Checked out her feed, and it is written as if Lyla herself, the character not the actress, is writing the updates. Further, many of the people she is responding to and tweeting with are also show characters. Checked them out too, and it seems the Friday Night Lights folks have gone whole hog for Twitter. Many if not all of the main characters are posting updates and interacting with and giving fans some extra goods on the show’s twists, turns and touchdowns via Twitter.
Some of the latest news is that Lyla doesn’t think she’ll be able to attend her dream school, Vandy, because her dad went and squandered her college fund. She tweets about it. Unable to resist at this point and recognizing that I’m living in a strange time where I’m talking to television characters, I messaged her back to be sure she was aware of Vanderbilt’s Expanded Financial Aid program, that commits to meeting 100 percent of a family’s financial need without need-based loans. Why did I do this? To get the word out about the program to people that might not have heard of it, and to dip my toe a little further in the water of Tweetversation.
Despite its extensive, nearly smothering coverage in the media, many people still have this response to Twitter. This latest interaction – both on the part of the show, and our response, I think illustrates its permutations and implications are endless, until the next new thing comes along at least.
Lyla responded with thanks, saying the financial aid program is just what she needs right now. Do I smell a spin-off: Friday Night Lights: Nashville?
P.S. I recognize that I’m posting this unusual tale on April Fool’s Day, but I assure you, it is all true.