By Laura Bradley. Photos: Courtesy of HBO.
Did you hear that Jon Snow is alive? By now, probably. But last May that knowledge was a delicate commodity—one that thousands of people wanted to discuss, while thousands more wanted to avoid like the plague. These plot-related paradoxes occur on an almost nightly basis as fans of various TV shows—from Game of Thrones to The Bachelor—flood social-media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr with countless juicy plot details discussed in real time. Some fans are ready to hash out every detail of a show right away, while others might still be waiting for the West Coast airing—or for their favorite drama to turn up on Hulu the next day.
Luckily, there are a few ways for fans to steer clear of spoilers on their social-media platforms—especially Twitter, which recently launched new advanced muting functions that can help fans keep themselves happily in the dark.
Usually, Twitter poses two threats to the spoiler-averse: swarms of live tweets that appear during an event or episode, and the stray tweets that crop up in the months that follow. Some folks on the creative side have taken a proactive approach, directly asking their fans not to post spoilers. Take, for instance, J.K. Rowling, who asked her fans not to post Cursed Child plot points—an effort branded with the hashtag #KeeptheSecrets. But some fan bases are more obedient than others—which means viewers who aren’t caught up have to be vigilant, especially when a wave of live-tweeting is afoot.
Enter Twitter’s advanced muting features, initially launched last fall as part of the social network’s effort to curb bullying and harassment. Entertainment was never the central focus of these efforts, Twitter product manager Rishi Tembe told Vanity Fair via e-mail, but the promise of preventing TV spoilers was a happy byproduct.
“We always wanted to expand on the mute feature work we did in November, which lets you remove certain keywords, phrases, or entire conversations from your notifications,” Tembe said. “Now, you can mute from your home timeline, and you can decide how long this content is muted—one day, one week, one month, or indefinitely.” This feature will come in particularly handy for spoiler-averse TV viewers, saving them the trouble of manually deactivating every muted keyword by the time they’ve finally caught up to the masses.
Live-tweeting has long been a favorite pastime for die-hard fans of certain TV shows; Tembe noted that last year #GameofThrones and #Oscars were two of the social network’s 10 most-tweeted-about global hashtags. And as audiences become more and more engrossed in their second screens, spoiler culture has become a very serious thing; one mistakenly blabbed plot point, and your friendships could be on the line. Fans aren’t the only ones who have gotten wary—as any critic who receives advance screeners knows, creators have gotten serious about spoilers, too. In 2016, the need for a more precise Twitter tool became more pronounced than ever when the site’s three most-talked-about shows—Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Grey’s Anatomy—all saw major character deaths.
Tembe declined to comment on whether any networks have reached out with collaborative ideas to combat spoilers but noted that when the advanced mute feature first launched last year, Gilmore Girls was one of the most-popular mute terms, thanks to fans trying to avoid spoilers from the revival.
“Now, whether people are in a different time zone, or just can’t make it home in time for their favorite show, they’ll be able to better avoid spoilers on the platform,” Tembe added. And thank goodness for that—suspense is a terrible thing to waste.
This story originally appeared on Vanity Fair.
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