Spoiler alert! How to Avoid Major Plot Reveals on the Internet and Social Media

My flatmate and I had a special Monday morning ritual during the spring of 2019. We’d set our alarms at 6am, draw the blinds down in our small London flat, and watch Game of Thrones. He was an editor in charge of proofreading episode summaries, I ran a social media team. Ingesting an hour of mud, blood and dragons before our first coffees was the surest way to avoid spoilers.

Now that I live in Australia, where big shows in the US tend to air in the middle of the working day, there are no worms for early risers to catch.

So like many Aussie viewers of Succession, at least those of us who didn’t get Easter Monday off work, I knew of the huge plot development in last night’s episode hours before we heard the title strike dissonant opening chords.

Next Monday, many more Australians will suffer the same fate. But is it inevitable? After seeking the advice of three people who have successfully avoided succession spoilers (through a mixture of tech savvy and common sense), the answer is: guy. As Daniel Van Boom of Cnets puts it: The options are pretty sketchy, that’s for sure.

Strategy one: self-control

The old-fashioned kind. The first is obvious: Don’t Google the show, warns Van Boom. He inadvertently spoiled himself a number of times while he was trying to figure out airtimes. I tell him that John Wick IV’s ending was ruined by an automatic Google prompt (my search was not related to John Wick). Apparently, there are no silver bullets for this. There are spoilers at every turn.

Sarah Snock
Leadership material? Sarah Snook as Shiv Roy. Photography: Home Box Office/2023 HBO. All rights reserved

Van Boom also warns against entertainment websites: don’t go to Variety or the Hollywood Reporter, the main story will be a spoiler.

But really the killer will be social media, just get off. He’s a wild west in terms of protection. You’re leaving it to others, and people aren’t known for their good etiquette on the internet.

Strategy two: self-control

The new type technologically facilitated. If watching social media or the news isn’t part of your day job, you can always install time management apps and browser extensions like AppBlock (Android, iOS, and Chrome, free with paid premium tiers), Freedom (Android, iOS , Windows and Mac, free with paid premium tiers) or yes Self Control (Mac only, free) which will block you from impulse surfing.

Van Boom calls it a radical move, but a good move nonetheless.

Unfortunately in our time zone, you have to give a little to get a little. He says he’s generally supportive of people forcing themselves off social media for four or five hours, and especially for this.

Strategy three: Filter it out

If you are professionally mandated to use the Internet, you will need to take a more granular approach to getting around spoilers.

Michael, who works as a software developer and data specialist, understood this. His family gathers weekly for a succession viewing party, it’s a family show and the vagaries of coordination between five adults mean that screenings sometimes take place several days after the show airs. Use a Firefox browser extension called Spoiler Protection 2.0 (also available for Chrome) that allows you to block certain keywords while browsing.

Michael also suggests telling YouTube not to spoil you with thumbnails, using Google’s Not Recommended Channel Feedback tool.

Van Boom says Twitter is good enough to dodge spoilers. In the privacy and security settingsyou can mute certain hashtags and particular words Succession, say, or Roy from your feed.

But the rest of social media is a minefield. Facebook does not offer muted keyword options. On Instagram, you can mute the words on suggested posts but not posts from people you already follow. Van Boom says his cousin successfully avoided Game of Thrones spoilers for years, only to have the ending ruined by Snoop Dogg during an Instagram live broadcast.

On TikTok, you can filter specific video hashtags and keywords in your content preferences settings, but that won’t stop untagged spoilers from reaching your For You page.

Van Boom also suggests turning off push notifications from news websites (especially important for sports spoilers) and temporarily unsubscribing from any potentially sensitive email newsletters.

Of course, none of these measures will stop you from being spoiled offline, but at least if that happens, it will be someone else’s fault.

Strategy Four: Stop Worrying

ABC Shepparton breakfast host and former tech reporter Nic Healey argues for a more philosophical approach. I feel like all the spoiler scare peaked a few years ago, but it was really intriguing to watch Succession. It’s not about your traditional spoilers, it’s that people are on the edge of their seat.

He says streaming has changed things since Game of Thrones, when Australians would illegally download a show they were already paying for, only to watch it hours beforehand.

If you watch a show like Succession, it’s not ruining the show. It’s not ruining the craft. If a show can be ruined by a single piece of information, think about whether it’s a good show after all.

Before Game of Thrones, no one fretted about what was going to happen in an episode of The Wire, because we just watched it whenever we felt damn good.

Accumulate a few episodes. Don’t be a slave to release schedules It’s been a while since we’ve had a show that has been so much of a phenomenon. We can still chart a brilliant path forward.

Van Boom also supports this strategy. He knows what happened on Succession yesterday, but he hasn’t started watching the show yet. And when I look at it, I will have forgotten.

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