Voting has closed for Vulture’s social media spoilers poll, and the data is … well, let’s just say it’s not what this author expected, considering the number of times I’ve been chastised for revealing plot twists in films and TV series.
Twenty-two percent of respondents thought it was okay to discuss plot twists in theatrical films immediately after they open, 20 percent said to wait 72 hours from opening day, and 19 percent preferred a one-week spoiler window. If this poll’s responses are any indication, if you wait a week from opening day to discuss the fine-grained plot points of a new movie, you’ll avoid the wrath of 61 percent of viewers.
Twenty-seven percent of respondents thought it was fine to start chatting up plot twists on TV shows right after their initial airing on the East Coast. In the TV part of the poll, 26 percent of respondents agreed it was okay to discuss plot twist as long as the show had finished airing on the West Coast, and another 17 percent thought 24 hours was an acceptable waiting period. So if you wait 24 hours after the first airing of, say, Game of Thrones or the finale of The Good Wife, you’ll be in the clear with 70 percent of our readers when it comes to spoiler etiquette.
No big surprise on sports: A whopping 86 percent of respondents said it was okay to discuss the outcome and narrative of games instantly.
Another surprise: 37 percent of respondents said the primary responsibility to protect or avoid spoilers resides with people who have not yet seen the thing in question — which dovetails with the response to the question of whether people who want to avoid spoilers should stay off social media: An overwhelming 76 percent of readers said yes. Those with the minority opinion would be better served by staying off Twitter or Facebook instead of asking others to adjust their discussions to preserve surprises for you.
The original article, which can be read here, allowed that this is a complicated issue. Filtering software that blocks posts based on keywords isn’t foolproof, and many might want or even need to be on Twitter or Facebook during spoiler-sensitive periods because they’re trying to keep track of subjects other than entertainment or sports. Still, the results of this unscientific poll suggest a consensus that social media is about immediacy, and that its users have to be aware of that and not expect other users to dance around what happened in a TV show, film, or sports event for their sake.
Dan Kois’s 2008 spoiler guide “The Official Vulture Statutes of Limitations” suggested policies for reality TV series, books, plays, and operas as well as films and scripted TV shows. It is well worth reading for comparison’s sake, although the piece is more about establishing rules for Vulture rather than gauging the preferences of readers who use social media. Intriguingly, Kois’s acceptable window for discussing plot twists in scripted TV shows (24 hours after initial airing) and films (the Monday after the movie opens) is in the ballpark of a majority of poll respondents.
If anything, the ground appears have shifted a bit in favor of instant reaction, favoring immediacy and open discourse, with the definition of discretion being set by people who’ve seen the thing being discussed rather than people who haven’t. The consensus isn’t yet as extreme in its embrace of the unfettered spoiler as Adam Sternbergh’s article “Free Yourself From the Shackles of Spoiler Discourse,” which warned:
Our unhealthy concern over twists, turns, shocks, solutions, jolts, reversals, and reveals is slowly spoiling us as an audience.
But maybe it’s getting there?
More than 5,200 readers responded to the survey, which went up last Wednesday and closed Friday afternoon.