Thanks to the Internet, we now have a host of new ways to offend, enrage, misinterpret, creep out, or alienate people. In Tangled Web, we field your questions about how to be a decent human online. Have a question? Ask firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do I do when my friends complain about me discussing pivotal episodes of popular television—say, the finale of a show we’ll call Making Mad—on social media? I understand they don’t want to be spoilered but also OMG OMG I want to talk about my show!
Yeah, it is definitely not your responsibility to make sure your friends don’t hear about a cultural phenomenon so major it was on the front page of the New York Times website with a government shutdown looming. If someone doesn’t want to be spoilered for the highly-anticipated finale of a major show—or, really, any episode of something widely watched— it’s their job to manage Twitter mute lists, stay off Facebook for 48 hours, or whatever it takes to preserve their innocence. (I say this as someone who is on season 2, episode 5, and just added 12 terms to her mute list this weekend.)
There are a couple of things you can do to be conscientious, although they’re not necessary. You can be vague in a way that would make sense to other fans but that doesn’t explicitly discuss plot points. You can make sure to discuss it using words that would be easily picked up by a keyword filter, or would jump out to anyone quickly scanning through Facebook: a tweet or update like “That was such a surprising episode #MakingMad” is easier to filter out, mentally or technologically, than “I can’t believe what Waldo and Bessie just did” (Bessie is Waldo’s pet cow in this show). On Facebook, you can start a “let’s talk about that finale” discussion instead of putting your thoughts in a status update—Facebook collapses long comments threads, making them easier to skip. And you can give your friends a little time to catch up, by resisting the urge to immediately work references about the episode into your pop culture lexicon. Making a “Snape kills Dumbledore” joke now, eight years after the book was published, is perfectly kosher, but I still wouldn’t feel comfortable talking too openly about the R-- W------ in Game of Thrones, just in case someone was still finishing the last season. There’s no simple rule about when spoilers stop and start being okay, but treading with a little care is kind.
In the end, though, don’t take any crap if you want to talk about your show and someone stumbles into the discussion who doesn’t really want to be there. You are allowed to discuss important cultural moments. If someone else doesn’t want to hear it, that’s on them.
Jess Zimmerman has been making social blunders on the Internet since 1994. Most of her current interpersonal drama takes place on Twitter (@j_zimms).
Photo by Apenas Images/Flickr