Spoiler etiquette: how not to be a total Joffrey

ByDuncan Heaney
Game of Thrones

They say you should never discuss politics or religion with people you work with. Sage advice, but I’d add a third option: Game of Thrones.

Few things are as likely to upset people as talking about the nation's favourite sex 'n' stabathon before everyone's seen the latest episode. And actually, the same is true of any major TV programme, from the Apprentice to The Great British Bake Off. People really hate spoilers.

Civil War

Spoilers essentially split fans into two factions. I like to give things arbitrary labels, so let's call one bunch 'The Unspoiled'. These people really care about a show but, for whatever reason, haven't watched it yet. That's fine - the world of on-demand and catch-up TV means people now watch things at their own pace, but they tend to be very sensitive about having plot points ruined.

Then there's the 'Spoiler Squad'. Shows like Game of Thrones aren't just episodes anymore - they're events. And when something particularly shocking happens among all the sex 'n stabbing people are well within their rights to get excited about it and want to talk about it - both online and with others. After all, that's part of the fun.

Neither viewpoint is entirely unfair - if only there was some way for both to live together in peace and harmony, instead of a constant state of passive-aggressive sulking. Well, I think there is - all it needs is a little compromise from both parties.

Or to put it more accurately, a code of conduct.

The broadbandchoices spoiler code of conduct:

We've spent a long time (at least… ooh, around 15 minutes) thinking up some basic spoiler etiquette, which should let both factions enjoy a show or an event the way they like. Sticking to this code should help you co-exist - I mean, we're basically helping achieve world peace here.

The broadbandchoices spoilers code of conduct is as follows:

1) Tweeting during a show is fine - but keep it vague

A zombie eats your favourite Walking Dead character, or a surprise betrayal leads your favourite denizen of Westeros with an unfortunate case of the deads. You're shocked, you need to immediately express your shock somewhere. Fine. Express your feelings on Twitter, but don't go into specifics. Say how you feel, not what happened.

Do say: "Holy moly! I can't believe it - I think I need a lie down now!"

Don't say: "Wow! I can't believe Jon Snow turned out to be a time-travelling Joffrey from the future!"

Woman seeing spoiler

2) If you're not watching the show live as its broadcast, stay off social media

Chances are you share interests with a lot of people on your Facebook and Twitter. So logically, many of them will also be into your favourite show. So when it's on, stay off social media. This is the riskiest hour for spoilers - you know there's a chance of spoilers (hopefully vague, see point 1), so keep your distance. If you look, responsibility for being spoiled falls on yourself.

3) The statute of limitations on an episode ends when the next has been broadcast

So when is it okay to speak freely about spoilers? For popular shows like Game of Thrones, we'd say you have seven days - once the next episode has aired, the previous is fair game. That gives the Unspoiled a full week to catch-up - if they don't care enough about the show to watch in that time, they surely can't care about spoilers, right?

4) The statute of limitations on films is one year from the release of the DVD

With movies, things are a little different to TV. There's no set 'moment' where the populace as a whole heads to the cinema. You watch a film when you can, and some people prefer to wait to watch it at home. One year on from the release of the DVD in shops or streaming sites, it's okay to talk about any big twists. By that time, anyone who wants to watch it has had ample time to do so.

5) There is no statute of limitations on live sport or music events

One-off events are just that - events. It's all about what's happening right there and then, so it's perfectly acceptable to tweet along with the football or express an opinion on a televised gig. You can bet your bottom, I'll be live-tweeting along with the glorious cheese-course that is Eurovision, for example (don't judge me). Again, if you can't watch for whatever reason, it's on you to stay away from social media until you can catch up.

Watching sports

6) The rules apply according to the country you're in.

Time zones are a problem. For example, when Game of Thrones airs in the US, it's the very early hours of the morning in the UK. It is never okay to discuss spoilers until something has been broadcast in its primary slot, so while people in the States can discuss the show to their heart's content, it's not okay to do so in the UK until it's been shown in a prime time slot. As a side note, you should probably stay off Twitter that day if you follow overseas fans - just to be safe (sensing a theme here?)

7) If you're having a conversation, make sure everyone's seen what you're talking about

If you're in conversation, it's good etiquette to check that everyone has seen a show or film before discussing it. A simple check - "have you seen X", before discussing something could prevent an awkward social situation. If a member of the party hasn't seen it yet, then either change the subject, or - if you really want to talk about it - politely exclude them from the conversation. Sure, they may be offended, but isn't that better than finding out their favourite character's been eaten by a dragon or something?

8) If you're a corporate brand social media account, don't post spoilers at all

It's annoying when someone posts spoilers on social media, but when the company that makes the show does it, well that's infuriating. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen though - US network AMC has spoiled the Walking Dead before it was even broadcast everywhere, for example. So if you run a corporate account, you are subject to all the same rules as everyone else.

And there you have it. Follow these eight simple rules and you can enjoy the show the way you want, safe in the knowledge that you're not ruining it for everyone else.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think on Twitter or Facebook.

Topics: Digital TV

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