Back in the days when there were video stores, imagine somebody had walked into one and shouted, “Darth is Luke’s father!” or “Bruce Willis is dead all along!” If you hadn’t seen those particular movies – The Empire Strikes Back and The Sixth Sense, respectively – you might be inclined to punch that person in the face for senselessly broadcasting key plot spoilers. This is why sane people generally didn’t. (I’m mentioning them here because, as older movies, they passed an acceptable statute of limitations some time ago.)
Fast forward to today and many people have no such compunctions. Social media is rife with people sharing spoilers of movies and especially TV shows without any consideration that they’re indeed broadcasting such information to plenty of people who definitely don’t want to hear it.
Case in point: Game of Thrones. I’m a fan of the show, but I never watch it until a full season has aired. With a complex plot and so many disparate characters, I find that binge-watching episodes is the only way to keep track of what’s going on. That means purposely staying away from spoilers for a good 10 weeks, which is next to impossible thanks to Twitter and Facebook.
Even with conscious avoidance over the past few weeks, I still couldn’t help but find out that major characters get killed and raped in the first few episodes of the new season (my ironic apologies for that minor spoiler, though I unfortunately know exactly which characters are involved).
A similar thing happened a few months ago with House of Cards, when I was covering the launch of the show’s second season at Netflix’s headquarters in California. The folks there understand how spoilers can ruin the enjoyment of a show, which is why they suggested any fans leave the room about halfway through the first episode.
I did as instructed, but the first thing I saw when I fired up Twitter the following morning was someone saying “RIP” to a specific character. Ummm, #punchintheface?
Part of the problem stems from the social media companies and broadcasters themselves. Both Facebook and Twitter seem to think there’s money in so-called “social television,” or people having virtual water-cooler discussions on those respective services while shows air. Both companies have made big recent acquisitions in this regard, while networks are urging viewers to “join the discussion” in real time.
Amazingly, this sort of thing could actually provoke the inverse result of what all the companies are aiming for: it’s a great way to get people to stop using Facebook and Twitter, or at least to unfriend or unfollow people who can’t practice a modicum of consideration for the broader public.
It’s not just spoilers, it’s also the incessant sharing about TV happenings that people might not care about. Nobody wants their Twitter stream flooded with a barrage of Oscars- or Super Bowl-related banter if they’re not interested in such events. Sure, such sharing can be filtered in many ways, but the easiest filter is to stop using the services entirely.
The solution to the dilemma is probably quite low-tech. If you want to watch a show or event socially, do it the old-fashioned way – order a pizza and invite your friends over. Trust me: The rest of us really, really don’t want to hear about it.