Forget Actual Awards, the Real Winners at the Oscars Are Those Who Know How to Best Use Social Media

As many tend to do in this technological age, the first thing I did when I woke up this morning was check my phone. Scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, I was understandably inundated with articles, images, and headlines related to Sunday night's Academy Awards, the most significant awards show in the American film industry. However, it came as a shock when I realized that instead of celebrating Matthew McConaughey's premiere Oscar win after a 20 year film career or Lupita Nyong'o's debut Oscar victory for her first full film role out of college, the headlines I glanced at on my phone acknowledged a very different evening at the Academy Awards—the one fashioned by social media.

The headlines that shot to the top of my Facebook feed or were repeatedly retweeted on Twitter consisted of Jennifer Lawrence's fall on the red carpet, Ellen DeGeneres' million retweets of her selfie with Hollywood's A-listers, Kristen Bell packing a burrito in her clutch, and John Travolta mispronouncing Idina Menzel's name when introducing her. Having watched the 3 plus hour-long ceremony myself, I knew these headlines were a far cry from highlighting the most important moments of the ceremony.

J.Law tripping and a burrito in a purse are definitely media-worthy — after all, this is entertainment we're talking about. Think about how dull the never-ending awards show would really seem if we didn't acknowledge the mishaps and oddities that occur when eclectic artists all sit down together for one evening.

Still, with social media's increasingly powerful grasp over what information becomes most significant on the Internet, the information we once regarded as supremely important is now overshadowed by sillier buzz. Ultimately, that sillier buzz then becomes the most relevant and the truly significant information — like who actually won — become secondary fodder. John Travolta and Kristen Bell appear to be the winners of the show when they weren't even nominated.

Christopher Polk/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

This particular weakness of social media aggregation has effects that reach beyond the morning after a big event like the Oscars. Social media buzz and following is so influential that it leads to greater star power for the subject. Take Jennifer Lawrence, who was the most tweeted about celebrity last night over Oscar winners like McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, and Jared Leto. A simple fall on the red carpet and a mock-fight with Lupita Nyong'o have lead to thousands upon thousands of tweets about Lawrence, who will benefit from the trickle-down effect of that media attention through new magazine covers, lasting headlines, greater name recognition, more sponsors, and most importantly, more job offers.

So, while the A-list presenters got to crown Oscar winners onstage last night, the real winners of the Oscars were awarded on Twitter and Facebook through hashtags, retweets, memes, and Vines that magnified their awkward moments and memorialized them in Oscar history. Looks like you don't have to be nominated — or even star in a film — to become America's newest media sensation. You just need a solid awkward moment and someone with an iPhone to start the media frenzy.