4 Tactics For Preventing Spoilers Before They Happen
Lots of publications have tried to create rules for spoiler etiquette. Where most of them go wrong is in the approach: Many would rather create specific rules for each entertainment medium, as if a TV spoiler is different from a movie spoiler. That's all wrong. A spoiler is a spoiler, regardless of what it's spoiling.
So I've created general guidelines we can all follow, and which apply to every medium of entertainment. These rules serve one purpose: to prevent you from ruining someone else's fun and enjoyment of something they love just as much as you do. We're all fans. We're all in this together. So don't be a dick. Here's how ...
Don't Lie To Yourself About What You're Doing
First off, you know what you're doing. Don't lie. Don't hide behind an excuse. When someone gets mad that you've spoiled something and you fire back with, "But enough time has passed!" or "You should have seen it by now!" you're vomiting up weak attempts at covering your ass. You know you've just ruined an experience for someone, one that in today's world is worn like a badge of honor.
"Fishing, Outdoor Survival, Marathoned Seven Seasons Of A Show in One Week."
We all want to be able to say we were taken off-guard, that we never saw that twist coming, that we didn't realize that character would die or would do that cool thing. We want to be able to say we were there, even if we weren't there for the exact moment it happened. That's the luxury of the modern media landscape. I can be "there" an hour, a week, or a month after everyone else, and my experience is just as valid.
Being aware of your tendency to spoil, no matter how innocent your intentions, is vital. It's like being a big dumb galoot and not realizing your giant dumb arms are smashing everything around when you move. The galoot at some point has to become aware of their unintended destruction, or they will stop being invited to places. You may have some kind of altruistic reason to be spoiling things for people, but you know what? To Hell with your intention. No one will care about the innocent reason you let slip that Arya Stark is secretly a basketball-playing werewolf -- they'll only care that you spoiled it, period.
Don't be a dick and spoil that she sunk a game-winning three at the buzzer to beat Team Lannister.
Instead of errantly firing off spoilers with no regard for common social graces, here's a little something you can do ...
Don't Post Spoilers Directly Onto Social Networks
Scrolling through a Facebook or Twitter feed is a lot like reading billboards while diving on a highway. There's not a lot of conscious, purposeful reading going on. Eyes wander, incidentally detecting the huge pictures and big, exciting words suddenly in view. You didn't make it a point to read that big-ass ad for a carpet and tile super store, but when you're driving by it, how can't you read it? It's a mindless forward progression; looking at signs along the road is one of the few things keeping people from falling asleep.
A man without reading material he can devote 100 percent of his attention to as he drives.
Now imagine if someone had bought a billboard along a highway and posted that spoiler of Arya Stark morphing into a B-ballin' werewolf the day after the episode aired. Your eyes are wandering around, looking for any excuse to stay awake during your grueling morning commute, and there it is: a picture of Arya breaking ankles with her sick-ass crossover before stepping back to nail an impossible three ... oh, and she's a supernatural dog, too. It couldn't be helped. The spoiler was right there.
"I'm sorry. A big-ass sign spoiled The Flash. There was nothing we could do."
That's exactly what a social media spoiler is. The only difference being that the Facebookers and Twitterers sharing spoilers don't seem to fully grasp that their status updates and articles they share are public within their private network of friends.
Really, there are two people at fault here, neither of whom is the person who saw the spoiler. Blaming that person is an extraordinarily lame form of victim blaming. So lame that the word "victim" is way too strong and should be replaced with "unfortunate son of a bitch." If you post a spoiler and someone gets mad, don't unfortunate-son-of-a-bitch blame. You should actually blame ...A) Sites That Share Spoilerrific Articles On Social Media With Reckless Abandon
(Minor spoiler warning for the season five finale of Game Of Thrones in the following paragraph.)
Right after the episode, Entertainment Weekly posted an interview with an actor whose character's death had occurred literally two minutes earlier on TV. In fact, it might have even been published as the episode was still airing. Then, of course, it got shoveled onto social media for all to see. The big problem here (other than all of it) was in the juxtaposition of the headline and the header image. The title was (SPOILER WARNING) "Game Of Thrones star on that shocking death: 'I'm not coming back.'"
Nice and vague. That could be any one of the show's 78 central characters.
Correction: Any one of the show's 93 central characters.
That is, unless the image you use to promote the article on social media is a picture of the actor in question ... which is exactly what they did. This is the article I'm talking about. That combo of headline and picture is exactly the way it showed up on Facebook. They've since edited it to a much more general picture of the whole cast on their Facebook feed. In its original state, it would take the critical thinking skills of a toad whom other toads think is an idiot to piece together the puzzle of which character died. If you want a real laugh, click the link and read the URL.
Irresponsible social media sharing by blogs and prominent websites is a big problem. One that's only made infinitely worse by ...B) The People Who Share These Articles
People with no tact saw that article (and the dozens like it) and then, assuming everyone on earth had already seen the episode just like them, they shared it by the thousands, thereby forcing it before the eyes of many thousands more, many of whom probably hadn't watched the episode yet. Do you see the problem here? If you don't, you are the problem. Refer to entry #4, and then skip to #1 for what to do next, now that you've had this startling revelation.
All of this brings up the question of time. When is the right time to discuss spoilers publicly? Well ...
There's No Such Thing As A Wait Time Before Publicly Discussing Spoilers
A running theme on a lot of spoiler etiquette articles is time. How long can I wait before talking about last night's episode? How long until a spoiler is fair game? I have a question about that: Why do people need to publicly discuss spoilers, especially so quickly after the fact? Don't you have friends you can call? People you're physically sitting beside with whom you can chat? The implication behind it all is that people want to discuss spoilers out loud, for the world to hear, or the entire experience is somehow rendered invalid. Why? Why do people think that's a thing they should be doing at all, ever?
Snapshot from the origin story of a spoiler-centric supervillain.
Spoilers are forever. Yeah, spoiling the end of Citizen Kane probably won't rile up too much anger if you talk about it on Facebook or in the office break room, but it's still a spoiler, and you have to be careful. Why do people insist on holding these conversations around the ears and eyes of people they can't be 100 percent sure have seen the spoiler in question?
Actually, I know the answer to all of these questions: Some people suck. Some want to blaze a path of stupid and not care about the fellow fans they spoil as they try to be the conduit through through which all pop cultural conversation flows.
Kind of like when Riddler had everyone's personal information beamed into his head. That movie was bonkers.
Though all of this dickishness can be wiped clean off the face of the Earth if people just did one tiny little thing before discussing spoilers ...
Always Ask If Someone Has Seen Something Before Saying Anything
This isn't a difficult idea, is it? Prefacing a spewing of fanboy love about a major pop cultural event with a simple question to make sure you aren't ruining it for someone should be a simple, intuitive social strategy. Yet it somehow bypassed millions of people. Really, this entire column could be the title of this entry over and over and over. That's all what it comes down to. It's being a person with a base level of empathy for someone else's experience, no matter how trivial it may seem because it's about a show or a movie or some other little artifact of ultimately frivolous entertainment.
People spend dozens, maybe even hundreds, of hours with the shows and movies and games and whatevers they love. They're waiting for the emotional payoffs along the way. It's what makes it all worthwhile. In this world, where there's rarely anything resembling closure or even sign of any forward momentum whatsoever, our entertainment serves as an outlet for the burning, pent-up desire to feel like something is happening. All of entertainment is one big payoff simulator we retreat to when that promotion seems so far off in the distance, or when your dating life is an endless pit of misery, or when social progress seems to have stagnated. A spoiler obliterates the payoffs that we can't get in real life. Prefacing a spoiler with a small, "Hey, did anyone watch the last episode of Blah Blah Blah?" preserves those satisfying moments. It encases them in bubble wrap, then places them in a titanium case filled with packing peanuts, and then wraps the whole thing in pillows.
And then throws it in here to survive only on lifetime supplies of canned ravioli and spam.
All you've got to do to preserve someone else's fun is ask if they've seen it yet. That's it. If they say yes, continue with your spewing of spoilers. If not, well, it's simple, really: Shut the fuck up. Just shut the fuck up. Oh my God, just shut the fuck up.
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