- Don't spoil TV or movie plot twists online for your friends
- Nowadays, fewer and fewer people are catching programs at their air time
- Give a "SPOILER ALERT" warning at the beginning of any write-ups
- Remember that hints are spoilers, too
Raise your hand if this has ever happened to you: You wake up bleary-eyed on a weekday morn, lazily scroll through your newsfeed or Twitter feed or Google reader or whatever medium you use to absorb small bits of inanity, and there it is -- an opinionated update on a season finale, new movie or hot book, filled with important plot points.
BAM! You've been struck by a spoiler.
Times have changed since 76.3 million Americans tuned in to the disappointing series finale of "Seinfeld." As one, they turned their gazes to their television sets, letting out a slow exhale as the final credits rolled.
Nowadays, fewer and fewer people are catching programs at their air time. In 2012, 36% more people watched TV on their smartphones than in 2011, according to a report from Nielsen. And Netflix, Hulu, DVR, and streaming services let us mold TV schedules into our own lives.
Which is all to say: You cannot assume, just because you've seen something, that everyone else has, you arrogant jerk. Your friends shouldn't have to creep around with their fingers in their ears screeching, "Don't tell me; I haven't seen it yet!" If you simply must pontificate on a cultural reference point with surprises, twists or big reveals, bear the following in mind.
1. Give us fair warning.
Simple: Just put "SPOILER ALERT" at the beginning of the write-up. Bonus points if you place the big plot-pivotal announcement after a jump (on a blog) or after a few hard enters on Facebook (so readers have to click "see more" to read the rest).
2. Remember: Hints are spoilers, too.
If people want clues as to how the tale will end, they will ask. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they'll want to finish it unbiased, draw their own conclusions and then discuss. Hot tip: Saying anything to the effect of "THERE IS A HUGE TWIST AT THE END, but I'm not going to tell you what it is" is indeed a spoiler, because the viewer/reader will now follow the entire tale expecting the unexpected.
Just keep your mouth shut until they've finished, yes?
3. Favor exclusive discussions over blasted proclamations.
All 483 of your Facebook friends do not care what you thought of the moment in "Girls" when we learn Hannah is an illegal alien. (SPOILER ALERT: Hannah is not an illegal alien.) Guess what! You can even use social media to bring to you those who are equally eager to discuss Don Draper's untimely death. (SPOILER ALERT: Don Draper isn't dead.)
Simply make your chat status something like "Must begin discussing the end of 'Brave' posthaste. Who's seen it?" and then squawk away without ruining anyone else's experience.
4. Give it the three-year test.
Has the Earth made three or more trips around the sun since the book/movie/show/play had its day? Then all bets are off. Those who still haven't seen "Wall-E" by now are unlikely to get around to it.
5. Forgive the spoiler.
OK, so your jerk friend just posted about the shocking moment in "Madagascar 3" when we realize the whole trilogy is the fever dream of a koala who watched his friends get taxidermied. (SPOILER ALERT: Oh, please.) Take heart: Research from UC-San Diego reports that spoilers actually enhance enjoyment.
Scientists found that students had more fun reading narratives when they knew the plot twist ahead of time than when they just learned it at the end, likely because it helped them pick up subtle clues along the way. (That's the reason everyone saw "The Sixth Sense" at least twice.)
In case you haven't seen it, Bruce Willis' character ... is a ghost himself! You're welcome!
Hey, don't blame us. That movie came out waaay more than three years ago.