American Idol Taught America to Text – And Other TV Firsts

Our electronic world has changed our lives at lightning speed. Can you even imagine a time when you didn’t have instant access to the world at your fingertips? From directions to price comparisons while shopping ‘in’ a store to instantly contacting your mom, best friend or child the world is literally at our fingertips.

Mainstream media has been slow to recognize and acknowlege new technology, however some TV programs were on board from the beginning.

First Television Program to Use Texting

Back in the early 2000’s some younger kids had begun using their thumbs to painstakingly hammer out a text message to a friend.  In 2003 American Idol, with help from AT&T (or Cingulair at the time) helped Idol set up a voting system using text messages.

“This was a big deal. At the time, text messaging was still new.” (FastCompany)
Ryan Seacrest become the world’s first national texting instructor, detailing the process of sending in a vote via text in prime time.

In a later poll on AT&T’s website in 2008 nearly 22% of respondents said they learned to text so they could vote on American Idol.

First Reference to a Website on Television

In a 1996 episode of Friends Phoebe sees Chandler on his computer and asks what he is looking at, he explains it is the website for the Guggenheim. A completely new concept in most people’s lives, accessing a museum on a computer.

Guggenheim Museum Website circa 1996
Guggenheim Museum Website circa 1996


First Reference to On-Line Dating & Instant Messaging

In the same 1996 Guggenheim Website episode Chandler is messaging with a woman. Phoebe refers to the woman as the “mysterious cyber-chick” and Monica calls Chanlder a “Geek.”


First Reference to World Wide Web and Chat Rooms

Back in 1995 the X-Files made the first on-air reference with a storyline called “2Shy,” originally airing November 1995. The episode’s storyline featured a serial killer who met women online, chatting with them and convincing them to meet in person. He then ate their flesh. But, this was the first known reference to chatting online on the World Wide Web made on television.


First Use of Google as a Verb

On October 15, 2002 Buffy the Vampire Slayer used Google as a verb. Character Willow asked Buffy “Have you googled her yet?” Another character thinks Willow is referring to something X-rated, prompting Willow to explain Google is a search engine. (The Atlantic)

That same year the American Dialect Society voted to make “google” 2002’s most useful new word an


First Use of Hashtags to Reference TV Shows on Twitter

Twitter had great success with Prime Time TV shows as a topic of discussion. By having a hashtag it allows tweets to be aggregated and the water cooler discussion of a TV show the night before can now happen in real time on Twitter.

The first use and success of a hashtag during a TV Show as Comedy Central’s March 2011 roast of Donald Trump, with the #TrumpRoast hashtag re-tweeted over 35,000 times. (SocialMediaDelivered)

The majority of television programs now use hashtags to allow fans to communicate with other viewers.


First Time a TV Program Attempted to Explain the Internet and Email

Back in 1994 and 1995 The Today Show was very confused by the internet and email and most certainly had no interest in using either.

It would be fun to hear how they feel about this today!


Charles Arthur, Digital Wars ( )

Laura M. Donovan Written by:

Laura Donovan is President of The Word Pro, a nationally recognized, award winning Digital Media Marketing Firm. She is a graduate of North Central College with a degree in Organizational Communications, a discipline that has proved valuable in her Social Media endeavors. Laura been managing Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc. since 2008. Her background as a Human Resource Manager for companies like Home Depot and Sharp Electronics has made her a valuable asset to colleges and universities, where she has served on panels and given seminars on social media best practices for students, including ways they can turbocharge their job searches – and how inappropriate behavior can negatively impact their future careers. As an inbound marketing specialist, however, Laura’s focus is on helping businesses leverage their presence on social sites to attract more customers and increase their bottom line. She considers herself as much a student as a teacher – learning all she can from others in her field. She writes extensively for her blog at The-Social-Pro. Find her on; Twitter - @thewordpro; see her website to connect with her on other Social Platforms.