On Mad Men, spoilers, and staying the hell off Twitter for the night

Ben Kuchera

Last night was pretty silly with pop culture events.

Warning: The post contains spoilers for Mad Men, Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones

There was the big debut of Taylor Swift's cameo-heavy video, there was the Mad Men series finale, and of course a new episode of Game of Thrones. Social media was going to be hopping no matter what happened, but holy heck it's time to move from "be careful online" to "just shut the computer down until you're caught up on television."

Let's begin with this tweet from a prominent publication. It gave away the end of Mad Men less than two hours after the episode was over.

Mad men time

There were others:

mashable

There is always a rush to discuss these things after they happen, and this would be a very different conversation if the publications had waited even 24 hours. But these tweets basically meant that if you didn't watch the show live and dared to go on Twitter, you'd see the ending.

Heck, even Twitter itself got into the spoiling act as people saw details of the finale on their trending topics.

mad men twitter

Anywhere you looked on Twitter there were publications spoiling the episode, as well as endless discussion over who died and who lived. The spoilers from most fans were light, I saw someone reference Peggy finding love, and another laughing that the oft-speculated about D.B. Cooper ending didn't happen.

Everyone has a different tolerance for spoilers, and research shows that being spoiled doesn't really impact the enjoyment of pop culture, but it still sucks to have so much of an experience known before you watch it.

Game of Thrones wasn't much better. Twitter again threw up a trending note talking about Sansa and her wedding night, and there was much conversation about "that scene," or how hard it was to watch the episode's final moments.

Social media handled itself a bit better here, as there were mostly just hints about what was happening, but you certainly knew when the most talked-about events would happen if you watched the episode after air, even if you waited as little as 30 minutes to begin to watch on HBO Now. "Guess again," was a popular joke online, and even stripped of context it was a bit tiresome to recognize the reference when you saw it for the first time, which is an odd sensation.

Heck, AMC once got in trouble for spoiling itself.

walking dead spoiler

My new rule after last night is full blackout until I'm caught up on that evening's pop culture. No Twitter, no Facebook, no nothing. It's too risky out there, and the race to be the first site to comment on a big plot twist means that at least a few outlets are going to openly state of what that twist consisted.

So I'm tapping out.

Which isn't to say...

As someone who covers pop culture for the site often, the spoiler conversation is often frustrating. There's a middle ground between giving everything away in the headline and running nondescript headlines with blank images, but no matter where the needle falls someone will complain.

In past stories of this nature I've had people say that even posting an image of a character is a spoiler, since they now have reason to believe that character won't die, or at least they'll survive up to the current season.

To discuss the show you have to discuss the show

I've read comments where a post that was marked as having spoilers spoiled more of the show than the article suggested due to them being able to read through the lines about what wasn't said to draw conclusions about what would happen. At some point you have to throw your hands in the air and give up; to discuss the show you have to discuss the show.

The trick is to figure out how to do so while giving the reader some control over how much they have spoiled, at least within a moderate time frame. Writing articles where neither the headline nor the image gives a big moment away can be tricky, but its worthwhile. Referencing plot twists and scenes that happened two seasons ago? That's a trickier question.

There are no easy answers, and every outlet out there is going to handle things slightly differently, so my advice is simple: Switch off during the big event shows. Watch live as often as possible. It's getting to the point where it's starting to feel like going online at all means it's impossible to keep big moments from being spoiled, and that's a shame ... but I'd rather adapt than spend my time raging against unscrupulous headlines.

A little less time on Twitter never hurt anyone.

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