Editorial by Andrew Kameka on Tuesday February 11, 2014.
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I knew about the angry US figure skater hours before Ashley Wagner appeared on my TV screen. I also knew about a minor spoiler on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. before The Bus went wings up in last week's episode. You know whose fault it is that I was exposed to those spoilers? Me.
"Spoilers" are the bane of every television fan's existence, and a constant force at a time when all of the world's knowledge is shared online, often in real-time on the internet. A spoiler is an important development, whether in the real world or on a scripted television show, that someone reveals before you have the chance to see things play out on your own schedule. That's the reason any sensible person is wise enough to not to even bother looking at Twitter any time after 8 PM on a Sunday night unless they want to see someone ruin major plot lines of Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, or The Walking Dead. That's an easy fix to avoid spoilers, but it's becoming impossible to completely avoid not knowing what will happen before it happens.
Take for example what's happened with the Winter Olympics. The Sochi games are happening in a time zone 9 to 12 hours ahead of the US, so NBC has decided not to show any of the most interesting events until 8 PM ET when more people are available to watch it. Good luck making it through the day without opening up Google Now to see a schedule of events and stumbling across results from news articles. Don't go on ESPN from your smartphone or look at those Score Center updates either, because you probably won't make it to prime time without knowing who won an event and which world records were broken. Spotted spoilers on Twitter? Ha, you have only yourself to blame for that one. Even if you do escape seeing spoilers on your own, the people on the train ride home who watched through the NBC apps may already know and spoil things for you.
The reality is that with smartphones making consumption so much easier, it's almost impossible to avoid spoilers unless you live in a bubble and conduct a finite number of activities. The New York Times has a great profile of apps like Spoiler Shield and Bloko that try to help, but I've seen supposed spoiler-free apps let things slip through the cracks in the past. There's no app to keep the hosts of my favorite podcasts to keep me from knowing major plot points. There's also no app to block the special breed of jerks who read the books and try to reveal key information ahead of time. (I've read the books and go out of my way not to become That Guy. Don't ever be That Guy.)
Spoilers are annoying, but reality dictates that we cannot expect others to protect us from seeing them. News outlets can't wait 8 hours to report what happened just because people in the US are at work. If millions of people like to live tweet about The Walking Dead or Scandal, it's unreasonable to ask them to stop because millions of others can't watch until Tuesday. It's an annoying reality, but it is reality. My smartphone is a ticking time bomb of information. On most days, it's a source of wonder and something I can't imagine being without. On days when I'm trying to avoid learning things before I have a chance to fully digest them, my phone is something I have to avoid as much as possible.
As someone who has been spoiled multiple times in the past few days, and many times prior, I've found that the only solution is to consume media as soon as possible. Expecting the rest of the world to move on your schedule is a futile effort. If you don't want to know what's going on at any given moment, it's probably best to put that phone down and cover your ears.
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.