A Word In Your Ear
Spoiler Etiquette In The Internet Age
by Rob Wynne
year, an event occurred on a popular television show. Because
the television show is based on a popular book, many people knew the
event was going to occur. Many people, who had not read the
popular books, were unaware of the impending event and were surprised.
Many people who had read the popular books wanted to talk
about the event, now that it had finally happened. Many
people who watch the popular television but watch it time-shifted
rather than live were startled when suddenly, without warning, the
Internet lost its mind and Twitter violently exploded.
next morning, I made a post on a Facebook group where I am a moderator.
Anticipating that the above was going to be the topic of
spirited conversation, I said the following:
with the <popular television show> spoilers, guys.
you're behind on the series, read comments at your own risk. Try and
keep spoilers out of main posts, so people can decide whether or not to
spoiler etiquette says you should give at least a week of courtesy
after an episode airs, because many people watch the show on DVRs or
other time-shifting methods.
thought (and still think) that this was a perfectly reasonable set of
guidelines. The subject wasn't declared off-topic, nor were
people asked to avoid spoilers entirely. I asked folks to try
and put the spoilers in the comments rather than the main post, so
people trying to avoid them would have an easier time1,
and asked people who wanted to avoid them to be careful and stay out of
the comments threads of posts about the show so they could avoid them
more easily, and put a reasonable time limit for this particular
courtesy to be in effect.
the reactions I got to this request included:
- "People who have not see it read
Facebook at their own risk."
- "This episode is a little
different because people who have seen it really want to talk about it."
- "People who don't want
spoilers should read the books."
- "I don't think you should
ever have spoilers ever, no matter how old the thing in question is"
- "Once you see the episode,
you will probable do what most people did and post about it
- "A lot of TV
shows and (especially) films come out at different times. Japan doesn't
get Star Trek until September, Man of Steel; August. Having them
spoiled because people think that they've been 'out long enough' sucks."
- "[By] that logic,
we can never talk about tv shows or movies."
- "Sorry but there WILL be
spoilers on the Internet (shocking, I know) and some of us feel the
[group] is the only place we can share these things."
- "[Some studies show
that] people seem to enjoy stuff more if they know what's
gonna happen. Therefore, if you come across a spoiler? You're welcome.
- "I think people are all
too damn sensitive."
- "I made a point of being
discreet when Avengers, Iron Man 3,Star Trek, Harry Potter, The Hobbit
came out [in the UK] first, is the consensus that when the next
blockbuster is released I shouldn't be constrained?"
the tone of some commentators suggested they were only moments away
from painting themselves blue and declaring "They can take away our
spoiler posts, but they'll never take away our FREEDOM!"2
not personally put out by spoilers, and that goes doubly so in this
case, where I've read the books the television programme is based on
and have therefore been in the camp of folks waiting for the inevitable
event to occur. But how I feel about spoilers isn't really
the point. Nor, if I'm honest, is how you feel about spoilers
point is that when we all are existing here in public, as a community,
we have a moral obligation to be considerate of the thoughts and
feelings of other people who are participating in that same community.
As Kurt Vonnegut so memorably says, " There's only one rule
that I know of, babies--God damn it, you've got to be kind."
a little bit inconvenient to make sure you put your comments behind
cut-tags or outside of the main body of a post to ensure that other
folks won't trip over it. And it's a little bit inconvenient
to have to carefully navigate through online discussion forums to make
sure you don't read something you didn't want to, because you haven't
had a chance to see the latest thing everyone's talking about.
And it's inconvenient that at some point, we all decide it's
been out long enough for everyone to discuss it freely without worrying
that someone hasn't seen it yet, because there's only so long you can
keep on your guard.
little inconveniences that we all put up with for the sake of a more
gentle and kind society? Gentle reader, they are called
I, for one, am in favour of them.
worth noting that Facebook is singularly bad for this, because of the
way it displays posts and comments. But this was about best
efforts, and there's only so much you can do.
so inclined might wish to revisit just how well that worked out for Mr.
Wallace. (Spoiler: Not well)
© 2014 Rob Wynne
Rob Wynne is a musician, podcaster, gamer, con runner, and occasional blogger who currently lives in Seattle. In 1997, he helped Dan Hollifield create Aphelion Webzine, and has been on the committee of Gafilk, the Georgia filk convention, since 1999. In 2011, he helped launch the podcast Tadpoolery, a general interest geek-oriented show.
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