Now, I don't know what this person’s intentions were. Maybe they were trying to temper my expectations. Maybe they thought I was about to reread the book and we could have a conversation. I don’t know, and I guess I never will because I was so horrified that I muted them before they could tell me anything else.
The internet is full of spoilers, so you’ve got to expect you’ll come across them at some point or another. Those of us who’d rather remain spoiler-free must take steps to ensure we don't learn too much. I might steer clear of Twitter for a while if a lot of people are live-tweeting a show I want to watch later. I'll scroll quickly over a discussion of a book my friends have read but I still have on la TBR. I often avoid reviews of a book I’m anticipating, just in case I learn too much. Some social media apps even allow you to blacklist certain words; a good resource for anyone who's particularly worried.
It’s unreasonable to expect that everyone on the public internet will keep mum about that highly anticipated piece of media you haven’t got to yet. If you care about spoilers, you have to protect yourself.
And I do. I avoid spoilers because I recognize I can't expect the entire world to hold off on talking about things until I’ve finished them.
I put in the effort on my end, and I don’t think it's unreasonable for me to expect people to keep spoilers out of my mentions (or my blog comments, for that matter).
In the instance I encountered last month, the spoilers were admittedly unspecific. The person didn’t tell me who died or anything, thank goodness, and once I’d finished the book in question (A MEMORY OF LIGHT by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson), the tweet struck me as more of a personal interpretation I didn't share. Before I began, though, it read like confirmation of how the story would go down. I couldn't help but draw certain conclusions based on this crucial tidbit. I was upset, and I was shocked someone would come into my space and ruin this thing I was looking forward to.
The situation has got me thinking about when I do consider it appropriate to share spoilers directly with another person. It can be a dicey proposition, as evidenced by my pre-read and post-read interpretations of the spoilerific tweet, but I propose the following scenarios as appropriate times to bring spoilers into someone's space:
My BFF is a huge GAME OF THRONES fan. I've read the books, so before the show caught up with the series she was always on at me for spoilers. There were a few things she absolutely did not want to know, so I always made sure she had a chance to retract her request before I actually gave her an answer. Sometimes she did; sometimes she didn't. Sometimes she'd say no, she'd changed her mind, but a few days later she'd turn around and say yeah, okay, she wanted to know about Lady Stoneheart (or whoever) after all.
On my own account, I'll occasionally throw out a tweet asking people to convince me I ought to keep reading a book that's boring me. I tell responders not to worry about spoilers, because I really want to know if I've got anything to look forward to. It's not a common occurrence, but it does happen.
When the person is vocally pro-spoiler
Let’s take my friend Jenny as an example. Jenny does not mind spoilers. Hell, Jenny loves spoilers. She reads the end before she reads the middle. It’s her schtick.
A couple months back, I saw her tweeting about a theory she had regarding Noelle Stevenson’s NIMONA. I didn’t hesitate to pop into her mentions and confirm it, with a quick “I know you don’t care about spoilers, so I can tell you...” tacked on in front so anyone who follows the both of us could look away if they felt it necessary. We had a nice little conversation about the comic.
I wouldn't have done the same with Renay because I know Renay dislikes spoilers so much that she won’t even watch trailers of upcoming movies. And I certainly wouldn’t have done it with a stranger, or even an acquaintance, because I don’t know their stance on spoilers.
When it’s bullshit, and the other person knows it’s bullshit
I have many friends with whom I’ll trade strange, unlikely spoilers about our shared favourites. They post their wildest fears, and I reply with, “Yes. That’s exactly how it goes down.” They respond to my own fearful speculations in the same way. We shoot the shit about how THE RAVEN KING (which nobody but Maggie Stiefvater and her closest associates has read) ends on such a high note, with everyone being not dead and remaining friends forever. We invent deeply implausible spoilers for all the stuff we love, and it’s all good fun because everyone understands there’s only accidental truth to it.
And if it turns out our fake spoilers are right, we can all laugh about how we said Gansey was gonna turn into a giant chicken at the end and hey! He did turn into a giant chicken!
(NB: I made that up. I’ll be surprised as all hell if Gansey turns into a giant chicken--but if he does, you know I'll be bragging about this moment because I totally called it. Hell, I'll even brag if he turns into a giant raven, because my chicken guess was close enough.)
Again, I wouldn’t do this with a stranger or a passing acquaintance because they might take me seriously.
When it’s a matter of representation
My stance on this has shifted over the years. For example, I used to love stumbling across queer characters with no prior warning, but now I firmly believe shock or surprise reveals feed into potentially harmful stereotypes and tropes more often than not. I want to know ahead of time about any queer or trans characters who may crop up throughout the text, especially if there’s a troubling angle to it all.
BOY, SNOW, BIRD is an excellent example. The book is fabulous until twenty pages from the end, at which point it devolves into a horrifying, transphobic mess. The text's failure renders a trigger warning absolutely necessary, and our need to discuss the impact this sort of terrible representation has on our culture trumps anyone's desire to avoid spoilers.
When you’re simply sharing an opinion.
I don’t consider someone’s general opinion a spoiler. Plenty of friends and acquaintances jump into my mentions to say they really liked a book or TV show they’ve seen me talking about. Far fewer pop in to tell me they weren’t into it, but it does happen. In either case, I respond with a simple, "Ooh, I'm glad to hear you liked it! I'm looking forward to more." or "Hmm, that doesn't bode well. I'll keep it in mind as I read on." If I want more details, I'll ask for them, and I expect anyone with whom I've shared a general opinion of my own to do the same.
There are so many ways to communicate how you felt about a story without sharing pertinent details from the plot. "I wasn't crazy about the opening, but it got really good later on," for example, or "I loved it right from the word go!" or "I don't feel like it lived up to all the promise you can see in the premise." And there's a big difference between that sort of statement and something like, "I loved/hated it because of the scene where Jane defeated Nancy by feeding the rage-magic she inherited from her mother into the nunchucks her wise old mentor led her to believe were completely mundane."
That said, I make note of friends and acquaintances who might not want to hear so much as a simple "I liked it" beforehand, and I avoid telling them anything.
What’s your stance on sharing spoilers with someone? How do you feel when someone goes out of their way to share them with you?