Spoiler alert: I’m going to talk about the latest episode of “Mad Men,” but no, I’m not going to tell you what happened. Because if I do, someone will get angry at me.
But here’s the problem: Even revealing that Sue Ellen’s sister Kristin Shepard shot J.R. Ewing on “Dallas” in 1980 could cost me a reader. So when is it OK to start talking about the finale of, say, “How I MetYour Mother”?
In other words, where does responsibility lie when it comes to spoiler alerts in the age of social media? Are you forbidden to talk about something for an immeasurable amount of time because someone plans to watch the whole series on DVD six months from now? Or is it acceptable to give away nine seasons of answers, 140 characters at a time?
Many have tackled this topic, and yet there’s no correct answer. I’ve wrestled with it for a long time, and even now I’m torn because social media is all about reacting to the hottest topics in real time. This might be the only situation where the saying “see something, say something” doesn’t apply. Here are a few tips for keeping friends and living a spoiler-free life:
Take a Twitter break. Why should you have to stay off Twitter when they’re the ones giving it away? Because this is a battle you won’t win. Taking a Twitter break shields you from most of the heartache of knowing too much. And if this just isn’t something you’re willing to do, consider at least starting your tweet with the words “SPOILER ALERT” (yes, in all caps), or even cleverly disguising the specific fact in a way that makes for engaging conversation. Of course doing that invites someone who hasn’t read this column to give it away in the reply.
Read your Facebook updates later. Facebook has settings to hide things, but too many opportunities to be disappointed anyway. Even if you manage to avoid the status update, you’ll see a summary of it when you click on the globe icon for your notifications. To that end, consider starting your status updates with “SPOILER ALERT” or even a sentence or two of filler before getting to the point.
Watch the show live. I know, life’s hard. You’ve got work, kids and a perfectly good DVR for which you pay a monthly fee. But the more popular the episode, the more difficult it is to avoid. Some people pride themselves in a complete social media cleanse, where they go off the grid for a set period of time. This could be an opportunity to test out a version of that, even if it’s not as extensive.
But you can’t shield yourself from everything. Hopefully, these tips will help make the next big finale or premiere legen ... wait for it for a few weeks ... dary.