What’s an Appropriate Spoiler Policy in an Age of Live-Tweeting Everything?

July 25, 2016

We’ve all had it happen to us. We’re casually scrolling along Twitter and out of nowhere, someone posts a spoiler about a TV show we aren’t caught up on or a movie we have yet to see.

Sansa Game of Thrones

For many people this can be extremely frustrating. My husband Nick and I started watching Game of Thrones on Memorial Day weekend 2015, nearly five years after the show first premiered. Because of our busy schedules and other commitments, we didn’t finish watching the show until two weeks ago, nearly a year and a month after we initially started watching. In fact, another whole season had come and gone in the time it took us to catch up.

We did everything that we could to avoid spoilers. We didn’t go on Twitter on Sunday evenings. Monday mornings were infuriating as we carefully tried to avoid seeing anything revealing the previous night’s episode.

Many people think that spoilers aren’t a big deal. If you aren’t caught up on a show, you have no right to complain about being spoiled, right? I say, no, that’s wrong and completely misguided. In this day and age of DVRs and streaming services, most people don’t tune in for TV shows live anymore. To me, it comes down to respect. How would you feel if someone told you the big twist at the end of a season of your favorite TV show? As much as you may be excited to talk about the show, be respectful of those who may not have been able to watch. Message friends privately or use other means to communicate about the show. If you do feel like you need to post about the events you just saw, speak in general terms (“Did you guy see GoT tonight? OMG! I couldn’t believe that.”)

But what’s the grace period for spoilers? 24 hours? A week? An entire season? The Artifice tackles this exact question in a post from 2015 on “The Science of How Spoilers Can Ruin TV.” (They share a graphic from Vulture.com outlining a statute of limitations system which I 100% completely disagree with. Only 3 days for unmarked spoiled allowed in a headline?? Shame. Shame. Shame.)

I personally think that spoilers for shows that are currently on the air should never be shared without a warning on social media. That includes season one spoilers for shows currently on their 5th or 6th or 7th season. Memes or articles with spoiler images should not be shared and news outlets (here’s looking at you, HuffPo) should be more discrete about their headlines or images. I’ve had multiple things spoiled for me because of headlines like “Here’s what (insert actor name) has to say about last night’s tragic GoT ending.” Wow, could you be more obvious???

Here’s where things get dicey: what about shows that have been off the air for multiple years? Are they still covered under this spoiler policy?

The story that has inspired this blog post: a couple of years ago, Nick and I saw something on TV about the show “Lost” and I made a comment revealing the ending of the show. Keep in mind this was 2013 and the show ended in 2010. Nick. was. FURIOUS. I kept claiming “I thought everyone knew how it ended!!!” but that didn’t make the situation any better. I felt horrible, but also felt like 3 years was a little more than acceptable to discuss the show. I took to Twitter, and most people agreed that I was in the right to assume that it was ok and that 3 years was more than okay to discuss it. Unfortunately Nick didn’t agree and it has been a point of disagreement in our relationship ever since.

Another quick story: I have a podcast that I really enjoy listening to, but the duo discusses multiple TV shows each week at length with no spoiler warnings of any kind. I really dislike that and ended up stopping listening to the podcast because I hated being randomly spoiled with no warning.

So friends, I want to know: what is your “spoiler policy?” Do you believe in a certain time frame? Can we all just come up with an acceptable policy so we can stop ruining things for each other? 

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