“No Spoilers!” It’s become a common term in a culture where media consumption is a customizable hobby. Where once we all had to watch shows and movies as they were aired on TV or premiered in the theater, advancements in technology have given us increasing options as to how, and when, we engage a show or film. Of course, with those increases in choice have come inevitable fractures in the flow of discourse surrounding TV and cinema: not everyone sees everything at the same time, so therefore we cannot all discuss things at the same time.

Though the cultural zeitgeist still seems to move at a real-time pace, there are definitely fewer and fewer surfers riding that initial wave, leaving scores of people floating on choppy waters, where unwanted information can suddenly come splashing into their face. Hence, a warning system – SPOILER ALERT – was created to help protect those who don’t yet want to be inundated with information before they’re ready to take the dip.

By now, most people reading this surely know: the current system is no real protection. Within the last two years, you or someone you know has been affected by spoilers – and you’ve probably wished that you had some sort of better strategy for staying unaware of the big twist, reveal or development in that show you’ve been diligently watching or that movie you haven’t yet been able to see. Well, we’re here to help you do just that.

Here’s the How to Avoid Spoilers:

AVOID THE INTERNET

I’m sorry – did you think this was going to be a long essay full of bullet point 1-2-3 strategies for avoiding those nagging spoilers? Sorry to burst your bubble (pun intended, as you’ll soon see), but the answer is really quite simple: Want to avoid potentially upsetting information? Then avoid taking a spin down the information super-highway.

Some people reading this may be too young to recall a time when the Interwebs were referred to as the “information super-highway,” but it’s a fitting term in this case. The Internet is literally a place where information is traded at stunning speed, with expansive reach; it’s pretty much a fallacy to believe that all of that information, with all of that reach, can be controlled or tailored in a way that allows one to decide what they will or will not see when they go surfing on the Web. Especially when you add in the wildcard variable of social media; there is no way to predict or control what another human being is going to say or promote on their own personal Internet platform.

But therein lies the current problem: the continued fallacy that Internet can be a customized and filtered bubble tailor fit to our individual specifications.

Isn’t that the latest trend? Sites or apps or plugins that offer us the ability to craft a warm Internet bubble around ourselves? Where only the information we WANT to see penetrates that bubble? We set our “feeds” to feed us only the material we want; turn off awareness of conversations we no longer want to engage in; banish “friends” or “followers” if/when they express something that displeases us; etc. Everyone’s internet is their own world and they are master of it – up until that SPOILER comes crashing in to pop the bubble.

Isn’t that the anger behind the anger? That someone not only ruined a show or movie for us – they violated the sovereignty of our bubble! How dare they? We reign over this Net space – and your trespass is not allowed! I’m as guilty of this as anyone, to be sure – which is why I suddenly had the opportunity to realize something fascinating:

About 98.9% of my tragic spoiler stories were Internet-based.

Avoiding The Internet = Avoiding Most SPOILERS

You might be shocked to find out that non-digital life is mostly free of spoilers. When engaged in an activity that does not require a screen, I rarely find myself in a situation where I’m being showered with unwanted information. A stroll outside or time spent reading a book doesn’t tend to ruin Breaking Bad for me (restrain yourself if you think it’s clever to point out that reading a book based on a show or movie is a spoiler).

On those rare occasions I find myself in a public place where people are discussing potentially spoilerish TV or movie topics, I’ve been shocked to discover that a friendly request for discretion (“Hey, couldn’t help to overhear your conversation – I’m not caught up yet.”) almost always results in the other party voluntarily agreeing to preserve the sanctity of your viewing experience. (Apparently, real people tend be more kindly than the psychopathic mobs on the Internet. They care that you enjoy the experience as they did – it’s this mythical thing called “empathy.”)

In those few instances where etiquette fails, I can either walk away or tune out unwanted discussion. The one time in life I had a rude person purposely ruin a movie for a group of people in earshot (Se7en, doesn’t get much bigger than that), unlike the Internet, I got to enjoy first-hand watching people turn on that guy and let him have what he deserved. In general, non-digital life is a pretty reliable system for avoiding spoilers.

We CAN Improve Internet Etiquette, Too. 

Am I saying that the Internet should NOT have to reflect the etiquette, empathy and civility that most people tend to extend toward one another in day-to-day interactions? Nah. The Interwebs are often weird, crazy and savage (trust me, I know), and it could definitely use some maturation. Maybe when a generation is living in the shadow of regretful posts and tweets from their youth, society will finally understand that the Internet is not an outhouse with a bottomless pit under it – but that’s a whole other discussion.

Dealing with the reality of the moment: right now, you simply can’t count on your fellow human beings to keep their mouths shut about what happened last night on The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. Sad but true. So, if you want to truly preserve the sweet satisfaction of an unspoiled viewing experience, better think long and hard (phrasing) before you pick up that smartphone or tablet – or turn on your computer around the release date or air time of that movie or TV show you eventually want to see.

…One wrong look, and your precious little bubble could end up getting burst.

ALSO: The Truth About Spoiler Alerts

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