There was a major event in a buzzy TV show on Sunday night. I’m not going to say more, because a) that’s not what this post is about, and b) the internet is getting quite heated about other people discussing it on social media. Instead, this opens the door for an important conversation we need to have together: How to avoid spoilers online in the year 2023.
Listen, I get it. You don’t always have time to watch the water-cooler TV show on the night the episode airs, and sometimes there’s a whole work day (or more than one!) in between you and when you can watch it. But there’s one neat little trick that will save you from getting spoiled before you’re ready.
Just log off. Just log off!
Think about the different areas of the internet you go where such a topic is discussed (social media, news websites, push notifications from apps), and do not go there!
Twitter is not what it used to be, and one of the few remaining valuable and fun aspects of the site is people rapid-fire reacting to a big television event. The Red Wedding wouldn’t be the cultural touchstone it is without thousands of people crying on Twitter when it happened. We saw it more recently with The Last of Us, and House of the Dragon, both of which were far more enjoyable because it felt like everyone was watching it at the same time.
Sports fans have experienced this for years and have had to come up with their own methods and solutions to avoid scores if they’re watching later. I can not stop laughing at the idea of dozens of people insisting everyone else couldn’t tweet about the unbelievable final at-bat of the World Baseball Classic just because they hadn’t watched it yet. Watching people react together in real time is a joy, and it makes TV (and Twitter) a communal experience.
While the internet has complicated matters, this isn’t a new solution. There are episodes of Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother entirely devoted to characters trying not to find out what happened in a TV program they recorded. (Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky has the best bit yet on this topic). Even before the internet, if you wanted to remain in the dark, it was up to you to avoid the places where you might get spoiled (the water cooler, the newspaper, chatty friends who watch the same thing, etc.).
That doesn’t mean it’s fair game for people to just yell spoilers at you, but that’s (mostly) not what’s happening here. Twitter is a platform where people discuss TV shows (among other things) as they happen, just as entertainment websites cover shows and movies as they happen. I promise, you will be fine without Twitter, or even the entire internet, for a little bit (unless your job involves you being in those places, in which case: I sympathize!).
Even if you do encounter a plot point ahead of time, there’s no reason that should ruin the show or movie you’re about to watch. The art itself is the art, not a Wikipedia summary of events, and how things are depicted is even more important than what is being depicted — even if surprises and twists are always fun. If knowing something that happens means you don’t enjoy the show anymore… maybe it wasn’t that good to begin with?
While it feels bad to get spoiled on something you were looking forward to watching, it’s not, in fact, fair to insist other people stop discussing it because your schedule is different. You are not the main character of the internet, and the rest of online does not owe it to you to be mum about something just because you haven’t caught up yet. It is your responsibility to keep yourself spoiler-free, not everyone else’s.