Warning: The following page contains spoilers.
In a recent episode of the television program Game of Thrones, a pivotal plot event occurred.
I don’t even watch Game of Thrones, and yet throughout the day I repeatedly saw what had happened during the recent episode from the minute it aired and onwards, because I was using Twitter intermittently (okay, constantly).
If you live in America, you can watch the show live, thereby being immortal and unable to be spoiled (thanks Obama). If you live in Australia however, episode viewing times will be staggered, as the time difference means that the show airs during the day here. This means that there are some people who are at home and able to access the show almost immediately after viewing, some people who will have to wait until they get home from work (suckers) to access the show, and (a lot less) people who will wait until it is shown on pay TV later that evening.
Combine different viewing times with social media like Twitter, and you have perfect laboratory conditions for having your favourite show spoiled like it’s your only-child cousin at Christmas.
People will argue that it comes down to personal responsibility. If you don’t want the show spoiled, just avoid social media. But as someone who is as addicted to social media as they are to television, this is much easier said than done.
Even if you watch the show the day it airs, as soon as is humanly possible for you, because of the staggered viewing times and job hours and commitments and naps and patting cats and dogs or looking after babies or other important day-to-day life things, you might have to avoid the Internet for as long as eight hours to avoid spoilers.
Of course, this can be done (I assume – I’ve never done it), but why should it need to be done?
Why is it that some humans feel the need to put specific details on Twitter or Facebook before other people have had the chance to watch an episode that aired that day? Is it because they can? Because they are bored? Just to be mean? To seem cool, because they got in ‘first’? Are some people just born evil? Perhaps it’s because they have an inflated sense of themselves, and believe that people care if they are shocked at a plot development (spoiler – nobody does).
The worst kinds of people spoil plot points on Twitter without using an associated hashtag. A lot of common Twitter applications allow you to filter out tweets containing certain words or hashtags (such as Hordor, Game, #gameofthrones, #GoT, Rebeccashaw, Dragons, Tony Abbott).
For a phenomenon like Game of Thrones, it is almost impossible to filter out every word you would need to in order to avoid getting spoiled. So besides going to live in an underground soundproof cave until you get a chance to watch, the best way to protect yourself from being spoiled while still being able to function on the Internet is to set up all the filters you can think of.
And most people do. But this protection is rendered totally useless if the person (monster) tweeting about the show does not bother to include a hashtag with their spoiler. Filters don’t work on Facebook; however, you can easily set up a group wherein it is clear that the show will be discussed immediately with spoilers allowed. These are the benefits of a civilised society.
I totally understand the compulsion to discuss your favourite show with others (especially when something huge happens), and I acknowledge that to some degree it is our individual responsibility to try and avoid getting spoiled.
But why can’t we all agree to give each other a break, and (unlike your favourite Game of Thrones baddies), employ some common decency?
Gamers of Throners (I assume that’s your collective name), I am happy for you to advise everyone publically that you are watching, and speak in generalities. But for just one day, can you restrain yourself from ruining an episode for someone who loves it?
Or if that is too long, what about waiting until that night to make sure people who have jobs get time to see it?
And if you honestly just cannot help yourself, and you must immediately let the world know that you know what happens (and it doesn’t matter if the books have been out for centuries, it is a different medium consumed differently or not at all), all you have to do is include a simple hashtag in your tweet.
Yes, we can all avoid the Internet for hours or days – but I love the Internet! I do not want to avoid it.
If you aren’t purposefully ruining the show because you have darkness in your heart, surely at the very least you can just take the simple step of including a hashtag. We are not asking for the world, we are only asking for a day.
Don’t be such a Joffrey.
Rebecca Shaw is a Brisbane-based writer and host of the fortnightly comedy podcast Bring a Plate.