There are many good things about social media from a pop culture perspective. TV showrunners can send out a tweet informing their followers about an upcoming project, or a harmless teaser in a still-running series. Same for filmmakers and major studios and the reactive fan engagement that devolves into argumentative Reddit threads. The social media visibility of our beloved TV show or film keeps us closer to them even when we are not watching; they are hashtagged into our feeds, countless creations of memes and gifs have been made in their honour and recycled into our online interactions to make them more enriching.
Because of the digitized information we are always inundated with, there’s the risk that comes with consuming too much and kneecapping the intended purpose of suspense. This is not about the trailer-spoiler epidemic. This is about typical fan behaviour that has become commonplace on social media. HBO’s fantasy drama Game of Thrones, one of the most widely-watched shows on the planet and also the most pirated, has a fan culture in live-tweeting episodes that culminates in an inescapable, timeline-looping vortex. Although this practice isn’t peculiar to just Game of Thrones, it has, for so long, interfered with what we watch. These social media-bound spoilers often don’t come with warnings, so one is left exposed and therefore ruining what could have otherwise been a compact, full-fleshed experience.
During the airing of the sixth episode of Thrones’ bombastic seventh season, which I was yet to see at the time, I stumbled on a spoiler on Twitter that one of Daenerys’ dragons died. It was, as I would later discover, one of the game-changing highlights of the season as when a lifeless Viserion was pulled out of a chasm of freezing water and recruited into the Night King’s army after being resurrected. But it made me mad still that I had been fed with that revelation before I was ready. I had also experienced the same thing with Logan, the final film in the Wolverine series and a parting gift from Hugh Jackman who had played the role for 17 years. After seeing a random tweet that X-23 is Logan’s daughter, I decided that the film had been completely ruined as there wasn’t any mention of that detail in the film’s synopsis, and so I was left to deal with that spoiler-induced sadness which was the main reason I didn’t watch Logan until months later.
AMC’s The Walking Dead has a spot in my ranking of favourite shows, despite how consistently terrible its current season is. Its mid-season finale recently wrapped up and it signalled the inevitable death of a main character (which I won’t spoil). All over social media, the character’s imminent departure from the show was a hard blow to take, and fans became disgruntled and rebelled against the decision. I avoided Twitter and Instagram altogether, though I already knew something would happen to the character based on the morsels of spoilers I had picked up here and there.
Reviews are now being done on social media, using the platform’s ubiquity as a massive spoiler machine. Die-hard Star Wars fans had plenty to say about The Last Jedi, one of the films that I really enjoyed this year. Thankfully, I had seen the film before encountering major spoilers. In the era of fast (unsolicited) information at your fingertips, spoilers are an inevitable accessory and although their occurrence can be marginally avoided, they are like virtual weeds that grow at will and spring a surprise when you least expect it. Ultimately, the only choice we have is to navigate through them.