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Is social media distracting for shows like 'Mad Men?'

Last night’s season premiere of Mad Men attracted a surge of social activity: 106K social comments on Bluefin Labs and an activity score of 218K on Trendrr, winning the night on cable TV. Unlike most shows that score big on the social TV charts, Mad Men is a scripted drama, not a reality TV show or live event. For example, the highly-promoted NBC premiere of Smash drew 52K social comments, compared to 106K for Mad Men, according to Bluefin stats.

That distinction wasn’t lost on Mad Men fan John Herrman, who wrote a rather blistering piece on BuzzFeed, “Technology is destroying Mad Men.” Herrman says the show is meant to be watched in silence, like a movie:

“Mad Men” is not “Jersey Shore,” and it’s not being performed in front of an audience. There are no gaffes to wait for, no winner, no loser, and no real-life consequences for the humans onscreen. Group viewing does not help “Mad Men.” It destroys it.

Hermann argues that the same goes for all scripted TV. “The impulse to tweet during scripted TV comes from the same place as the impulse to shout a joke in a movie theater. Nobody likes the guy who shouts jokes in the movie theater,” he writes.

Maybe, but the difference here is you don’t have to listen to the shouting if you don’t want to. And the return of Mad Men after a lengthy hiatus is certainly a shared experience among many fans — they’re excited enough to watch it as it airs instead of a couple days later on their DVRs, and that excitement carries onto Twitter and Facebook. As the season progresses, more people will watch it time-delayed and the social scores will drop, which is natural social behavior. As for Hermann, he says he’s turning off his phone for the next episode.

By the way, the season premiere set an all-time ratings record for the show. Here’s Bluefin Labs’ social breakdown of the premiere, and make sure you scroll down to comments to see the conversation there:

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