I once heard someone shriek "spoiler alert!" to stop another from divulging the plot details of a 30-year-old Star Wars movie. As much as I, too, hate having things spoiled for me before I've experienced them, there just comes a point, silently agreed upon by a few, when it becomes okay to openly talk about it.
On the internet, there is no such grace period for spoilers. If you spend a lot of time using the internet, trying to dodge spoilers and the places where they brew is futile. They are popping up in new places every minute, and they will find you.
Here's an example: I am a moderator for this site's Facebook page. In between the global premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the UK, which took place a night before the premiere in the US, some users who subscribe to our page (but not anymore) began littering it with spoilers. I was trying hard not to have the film spoiled, but thanks to these comments, I was screwed, and so were many of our subscribers. Before this long-anticipated film was available for me to watch, I knew many of the most important plot points.
...I wish I hadn't seen that
We knew that avoiding spoilers for this film would be something that many would be interested in, so we wrote a few pieces about how to limit your exposure to them. It might seem obvious looking back, but their intent made them a prime target for spoiler-laden comments on Facebook.
In the day leading up to the US premiere of the movie, our team feverishly worked to keep our page spoiler-free and, expectedly, I was exposed to things that I wish I hadn't seen. What I saw was mostly words, but sometimes people went as far as uploading still images captured by a smartphone from an early film screening. How rude!
Of course, the problem of Star Wars spoilers wasn't limited to techradar. Across the web and on social media, commenters expressing excitement for the film were a juicy tackle that inspired spoiler-rific reactions. I even saw threats of bodily harm to those who ruined the anticipated movie.
Why do people spoil things?
There are likely a lot of people who stand behind the idea of protecting what little is still considered sacred in today's connected world. But are those who instead insist on spoiling it bad? Not really. Or, at least, it's complicated.
Netflix polled its users to see how they felt about spoilers and those who dole them out. The results concluded that 76% of Americans consider spoilers to be a fact of life. An astonishing 94% of the respondents in the survey stated that spoilers don't make them want to stop watching the rest of a TV show. If anything, 13% of that large chunk of viewers said that spoilers actually spark their interest in a show that they hadn't planned on watching.
The video streaming company hired Grant McCracken, a cultural anthropologist to take a closer look at the types of people who tend to spoil and how they go about spreading them with their peers, or to anonymous people on the internet. His analysis brought five personality types to the surface.
- The Clueless Spoiler: They live in their own innocent world. If they''ve seen it, everyone else must have too, so it never dawns on them they''ve casually revealed a huge plot twist.
- •The Coded Spoiler: They find pride in speaking in code about major plot points so only other superfans know what''s being discussed.
- •The Impulsive Spoiler: They''re thrilled to be talking about their favorite show...so thrilled they gave away the next three seasons in a single breath.
- •The Power Spoiler: They play with plot twists to get inside people''s heads because everything''s a game to them.
- •The Shameless Spoiler: They aren''t willing or even interested in censoring themselves anymore. As far as they're concerned, everyone watches on their own schedule, so once something's out there, it's fair game.
I'd like to contribute another type of spoiler personality to the list, found only on the internet. I'll call them "The Utterly Ruthless Spoiler." They are the kind who will post a fun-looking, totally unassuming picture that redirects to a gut-wrenching Star Wars: The Force Awakens spoiler once clicked. Yes, this happened to me.
Whenever there's a new release that you're dying to see, read or play, you change the way you behave. You look at everything, but you don't really look, out of fear that you might stumble upon a spoiler, or even the slightest scent of one.
But let's say that you do get spoiled. Who, or what, should you even be mad at? The person? The site? Yourself? As the Netflix poll indicates, those who don't like spoilers should quickly adapt to a new way of life. Spoilers are everywhere, yet no one's at fault.
This Friday, I'm going to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I'm late to the party, which was in the plan from the start to avoid the insane crowds. That got delayed a little further when I saw the spoilers online, which almost made me write off seeing the film entirely. But after a few weeks, I just want to see it. I don't care anymore that the film's secrets are out of the bag. I just want to see some lightsabers and dogfights, damn it. Spoil that, internet.
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