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After spending several years in social services, Nicole has finally followed her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer. In addition to her work for The Hudsucker, Nicole is also a staff writer for Womanista. An avid comic book fan, BBQ aficionado, professional makeup artist and first-time mom, Nicole can be found exploring Kansas City rich history when she's not blogging about suburban life at Suburban Flamingo.

Spoiler Alert! Solving the Spoiler and Social Media Issue

We need to talk about spoilers.  Before we do, however, I feel like I need to warn you with a big, hearty SPOILER ALERT because if we’re going to talk about spoilers there’s a solid chance I might, well, spoil something for you.  But we need to talk about spoilers and you’ve been warned.

Credit: Memegenerator

Credit: Memegenerator

Okay, is everyone still here?  Great!  Let’s talk about spoilers.  Spoilers are, casually-speaking, when someone reveals the details of plot regarding a movie, television show, or book to someone who hasn’t yet consumed the media.  In general spoilers have a somewhat negative connotation, as though the media has been ruined by the revelations.  That being said some people enjoy spoilers while others are absolutely and adamantly opposed to them and that is where the conversation picks up: spoilers are rampant on social media, with live-tweeting and posting about shows and the like being encouraged.  Do people have the right to be mad when they are spoiled via social media?  Should people be more considerate of how they report their reactions to media so as to protect people from spoilers?  What’s the etiquette?  Is there etiquette for spoilers?  How do we solve this?

I took an informal poll of my friends on Facebook regarding spoilers just to get a temperature check as to where people were on the issue.  I was somewhat surprised by the response.  Most were anti-spoiler, which I expected.  What was shocking to me was what some of my friends felt were the parameters of spoilers. The Standard of Spoiler Etiquette was mentioned (explained to me as “one week for a regular episode, one month for a season finale, and one year for a series finale”) but someone else also stated that there should be no spoilers at all, ever, citing the example that children being born today would still be new eyes to things such as Star Wars and thus it would be unfair to them if people were talking about Star Wars.  By that logic, no one can talk about anything, which someone else countered with an understanding that there has to be a fine line and respect.  The problem?  No one can seem to decide what that fine line is and what respect entails.  This indecision about a fine line is compounded by the newer trend of television shows encouraging the live response to new episodes via Twitter.  The measure is designed to create a sense of community among the viewers as well as hype engagement for any particular episode but by doing it in a public forum (as opposed to the more private one of a show-specific site or message board) the potential for spoilers multiplies.

It’s confusing and complex, but it comes back to the question: do people have a right to be mad if the stumble upon spoilers on social media and how do we solve this issue?

The answer is yes, people have a right to be upset, but people also have the right to talk about the things they’ve seen/read/enjoyed.  The real answer is found in general manners.  Here’s the reality: people are going to consume media and get excited about it.  They’re going to share their excitement. For example, after seeing Iron Man 3 I was so taken by Ben Kingsley’s performance as the Mandarin that I took to social media talking about my disappointment with the film over all, but declaring that “the Mandarin is not a joke.”  My meaning was that Ben Kingsley had knocked it out of the park with an incredible performance despite the story he was handed.  What I didn’t take into consideration was that my statement also revealed an important element of the plot regarding the Mandarin and I got some heat for it.  I “spoiled” things for people.  By contrast another friend posted on her Facebook account that she was going to be talking about the movie, spoilers incoming, and that if you wanted to avoid that please hide her posts or just not read them for the next few days.  As far as I can tell she got no heat and all was well.  She was polite, she warned people, and then she spoiled away. We both had the right to talk about what we had experienced.  We just did it in two different ways that netted different results.

It isn’t fair or right to ask people not to share their excitement, but it also isn’t right to force someone into knowing the details of something they might want to enjoy with fresh eyes themselves.    The resolution to the debate itself will never happen; people are always going to not want to know and people are always going to tell with no real accepted parameter of when it’s okay, but we can learn to respect the situation pretty easily.  On the part of the spoiling party, make a post notifying that you’re going to post spoilers.  On the part of those who don’t want to be spoiled, recognize that people are going to spoil and make your social media choices accordingly.  Some people have told me they just avoid social media for a few days after a big release or they skip over anything that appears to be about the media they want left unspoiled.  In doubt about offering spoilers?  Just ask “does anyone mind spoilers?”  And should you get spoiled accidentally?  Don’t get mad. If you must say something,  politely and privately tell the spoiling party that they have spoiled you and that you weren’t okay with it.  There is no need to create drama about it.  A little bit of consideration goes a long way on both sides.

And perhaps the golden rule?  Remember that even if someone reveals that everyone dies in the end the fun of the story is in how we get from the beginning to the literal end, not just the end itself.  Relax, folks.  It’s just entertainment.

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