It’s happened to most of us at one time or another. A brand new episode of one of your favorite shows is coming on but you have to work or are otherwise engaged. So you set your DVR or plan to catch it on Hulu. But within an hour of the show airing the spoilers are all over Facebook and Twitter. Before you can even dash home and watch the episode, your phone has blown up with memes you don’t understand and that likely ruin the whole episode for you. Your friends and family have ruined the episode.
But there are two sides to every story. How long should people have to wait before talking about something on Facebook? Is it their responsibility not to spoil it or your responsibility to not drag your feet in watching it? The answer lies somewhere in the middle. I know somebody who was a day or so behind on a new episode of The Walking Dead and had it ruined when she saw a post on Facebook that revealed the death of a major character in that episode. This was less than one day after the episode had aired. In an age when social media is instantly available (and frequently checked) via mobile phone the risk of having something spoiled for you is higher than ever. I also know someone who was upset for having a show ruined for him a couple years after the final episode of that show had aired. So these examples are two ends of the spectrum. To avoid these problems I propose the following rules regarding spoilers.
4 Simple Rules to Follow
1. If you must talk about a show (especially a high profile one like Doctor Who or The Walking Dead) within two days of it airing then put your comments behind a cut or link. This gives the reader a chance to avoid your comments if they haven’t seen the show. Also be sure to use the usual all-caps labels (like ‘Spoilers Ahead’).
2. It is okay to give a general opinion of an episode at any time after that episode has aired. If you want to say something blew your mind or that the reader should stock up on tissues before watching, that should be okay. Provided you avoid any specific details or huge generalizations (for example, to reveal that someone dies).
3. After two full days have passed, your right to be spoiler free has passed. This isn’t the movies. The next installment of whatever you like will be on in a week (or next season at the latest). You need to be caught up in a timely manner if the folks you know are going to the consideration of not ruining it for you.
4. It’s just television. If you manage to get something spoiled for you, it’s not worth blowing up about. Would you rather still have a good friend or drop them because they told you that Buffy died closing the portal after fighting Glory? Let it go. But remember to be wary when talking to this friend about things you haven’t seen yet.
General spoilers can even be a good thing. For example, I tend to watch Boardwalk Empire the day after it airs because it airs Sunday night when I am tuned into AMC for The Walking Dead. The few friends I know who watch it left vague mentions of it on Facebook. Nothing was ruined and it, in fact, just got me more excited to see the actual episode. Follow these rules and perhaps we can all get along. And not have things ruined for us.