An interesting conversation took place on Facebook and email, and I thought I would bring it to a new space in order to continue it (by which I mean, rope more people in). I watched the Doctor Who Christmas special along with 8 billion other Whovians. You may notice that I said 8 billion and are about to suck in your breath and say, “Melissa, there aren’t 8 billion people on Earth.” And you’re right, but seriously, do you really think that all Whovians are on our planet? What about the Slitheen on Raxacoricofallapatorius not to mention the Sisters of Plenitude of New Earth? Don’t you think they are watching the specials as well?
Anyway, I watched the Christmas special and when it was over, I said thank G-d someone’s contract was renewed for another season.
And people responded: spoilers!
(I’m sorry! I’m really really sorry!)
Okay, but it begged the question — when is it a spoiler? To me, a spoiler only applies if the movie, book, event, etc is going to be consumed at different rates and at different times by different people. When the event is at a set point in time and people discuss it online, I don’t consider it a spoiler.
For instance, it would have been crappy to reveal the ending to Harry Potter 7 online because people read at a different rate. So even if the vast majority of the world purchased the book at the same time, they may not have finished it at the same time. Or it would have been crappy to reveal the ending of Gone Girl, the movie, because everyone couldn’t see it at the same time. Theaters cannot hold infinite amounts of people, therefore, only a certain amount of people saw the first showing, second showing, etc. Like books, we consume movies at different points in time.
But televised events such as the Super Bowl, the Oscars, election results: all of those have a set start and end time. Some people may not be able to view them in the time slot that the event is set, and they will tape or DVR the event. Therefore the question needs to be asked: is it a spoiler if other people have a public conversation about the event on social media during the time of the event?
In other words, should people not discuss events online since some people may have needed to DVR the event and watch later, or should people who can’t watch during the set time avoid social media if they care about spoilers?
I’ve always subscribed to the second thought: if I don’t want something ruined, I don’t go online. But my online information consumption is fenced off. I only go on Facebook once or twice a day, and the same goes for Twitter, et al. If I know I haven’t seen something yet, I just skip going on social media until I have seen it. I don’t leave social media open all time. If I did leave social media open all the time, it would be impossible to tape any major event and watch it later. It feels like someone out there is live Tweeting something at all times.
Of course, compounding this problem is the fact that we all live in different time zones. I didn’t look at social media on Christmas after it became evening in the UK because I assumed people over there would be watching the episode hours before me.
Anyway, it feels like these two things are in direct conflict: we’re a DVR-obsessed planet, determined to watch things when they are convenient to us vs. being held to television’s schedule BUT we’re also a social media-obsessed planet, determined to talk about everything in real time.
Apologies to everyone I’m friends with on Facebook who had someone’s contract renewal spoiled. Thank you for not popping through the computer to kick my shins. I click my sonic screwdriver at you in gratitude.
To everyone else, what do you think? Can it be a spoiler if someone talks about a time-set event?
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