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Discovery Channel's rough-and-tumble captains discuss life on the seas, and the web

By Melanie Haupt, Fri., March 15, 2013

(l-r) Capts. Johnathan Hillstrand, Keith Colburn, and Sig Hansen
(l-r) Capts. Johnathan Hillstrand, Keith Colburn, and Sig Hansen
Photo by Gary Miller

Deadliest Catch's Twitter for Tough Guys

Saturday, March 9, Hyatt Regency Austin

The bawdy "Bad Boys of the Bering Sea" – Captains Sig Hansen (@NorthwesternSig), Keith Colburn (@CrabWizard), and Johnathan Hillstrand (@CaptJohnathan) – came together, along with moderator Josh Weinberg of the Discovery Channel, to discuss the role of social media in the success of the network's beloved reality show, Deadliest Catch. The "characters" on this show, Weinberg argued, are real and authentic, doing the same things we do on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Weinberg asked how the captains use social media to control their images after living and re-living each crab season. "You used to come home and tell your family that it was just another day at the office," reflected Colburn, "but then the show airs and they see how much danger you were really in." Social media also provides the men the opportunity to provide context for personal conflicts and physical altercations.

The captains also contended with the role of social media in the wake of the death of Captain Phil Harris from complications following a massive stroke in early 2010. Hillstrand had little to say about his friend's passing, but it was clear that the topic was still quite raw and that the captains miss their friend.

When asked about how the men use social media to promote the show and engage with fans, Hansen groused about fans' unrealistic expectations of his Twitter usage. "The first thing you want to do when you get home from doing the job is screw your wife, not tweet!" he exclaimed.

Colburn uses social media to engage with the audience, as when he tweeted a picture of the crew's Costco receipt and challenged followers to guess the total. "Social media is like a spider web," he mused. "All you have to do is use a hashtag to build and expand that web."

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