Paul Gorby looks at the TV spoiler phenomenon, and how you can avoid your favorite show being ruined.
Summer is the season of the sitcom, with many fan favourites such as Orange is the New Black, House of Cards and Game of Thrones making their return to our screens. Unfortunately, this gives way to spoilers, which many of us have fallen victim to.
The concept of spoilers is certainly not new; certain people have been giving away the ending to stories since stories were first told. Some just take sadistic pleasure in giving away the surprise and undercutting all suspense from our favourite films, TV shows, and books.
However, now more than ever, spoilers are all the more difficult to avoid, and even to avoid revealing. Obviously, the spread of social media has a lot to do with this – people can post about the latest films and shows as soon as they are released and nobody can stop them – but it is also because the way in which we watch things that has changed. Thanks to streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu, we no longer need to structure our day around when something is released; we can wait until a time that suits us. While this is convenient, it means different people watch the same thing at different times and at different paces, so trying to avoid spoilers has become a serious challenge.
What are the rules regarding posting spoilers online? How long should you wait to post them? And how much onus should be placed on the people who post spoilers, compared to people who fall behind on their favourite shows and simply refuse to give up on their social media news feeds?
Most people do not really need to post spoilers, and unless you happen to have something interesting to say, it might be best to simply not publish any in the first place. While this might be frustrating, the ire you risk inflicting upon yourself is great if you choose to avoid this advice.
Nevertheless, plenty of people are going to post spoilers to social media anyway, either because they just can’t contain their excitement or because their followers expect them to talk about new content. The first and most obvious rule regarding any spoiler-laden post is that it should come with a health warning. Something along the lines of: “Warning: Contains spoilers. Side effects may include intense anger and frustration. Please avoid until you are fully caught up with the media content concerned.” Posting without a spoiler warning is something you shouldn’t do until about a week has passed, at which point it is reasonable to assume that most people who would be upset by spoilers will have had a chance to catch up.
The health warning tactic doesn’t work in all cases though, and would make tweeting anything meaningful a lot more difficult. While in a perfect world, this would mean that no one would tweet any spoilers for about a week or so, this is obviously not going to happen. As such, a good rule would be that if you are going to post spoilers for something on Twitter, be sure to let your followers know well in advance. You can also include hashtags which your followers can block from their feed.
Sometimes, however, all of this is not enough. For a lot of people, the definition of a spoiler is not just something that gives away plot details but extends to anything relating to the content whatsoever. Some people do not even want to hear that a film or episode was good since it means they will approach it with certain expectations, making the experience less authentic for them. For such people, avoiding spoilers on social media is close to impossible, since even if all the posts which show up on their feed contain no plot points, the mere fact that there are a lot of them means that they know something big has happened.
If you are one of these people, the only real advice I can give you is to stay offline until you are caught up. Maybe this isn’t especially fair, but it is the price that must be paid. After all, if your favourite football team played a match that you missed, you would avoid watching the news’ sports section, so if you missed the last episode of your favourite show, maybe just take a break from social media until it’s safe to return.