I spent all of November trying to get caught up with House of Cards, which never really happened. Perhaps it was the show itself—am I really supposed to care about these ridiculous people?—but something else was unfortunately at play: I’d been exposed to two major plot twists, well before I ever encountered them on my own terms. I detest spoilers. Getting wrapped up in a good story, then getting blindsided by it, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. So when someone (or something) prematurely reveals a “big reveal,” I feel robbed and cheated. In the pre-Internet days, this used to only happen every so often, but since social media has turned the spoiler into a virus one can catch at least once a month, I’m offering this list of precautions. Follow them. Abide by them. Don’t let happen to you what too often happens to me.
1. Avoid all social media. I’m not talking about friends who post crucial information. Aside from that one person who tweeted the end of Prometheus after seeing an early screening of it on the day it opened (?!), most of my cyber pals have the decency to start threads without disclosing anything, plus include a fair warning to scroll on if you’re not on the same page. No, I’m referring to the true enemy: those “related links” sections that are always popping up in your feed. Did the Daily Beast really need to give away the end of Homeland’s third season in a headline? I soon forgave my Prometheus friend (the reviews were pretty shite, after all), but f*ck you, Daily Beast! May you die a slow, messy death on the information superhighway.
2. Avoid all print journalism. These things are sneakier and stealthier, just lying low in your doctor’s office and playing it cool before they attack. That big-ass, holy-crap, total-shocker moment that kicked off the second season of House of Cards? There it was, right in the intro of David Fincher’s Playboy interview. And I’m still nursing a serious grudge toward Us magazine (back in the ’90s, before it went weekly), for ruining the end of Se7en during a Gwyneth Paltrow Q&A. Granted it was two or three years after the movie came out, but still!
3. Avoid all social gatherings. These aren’t really dangerous, just annoying. Just tell people you haven’t seen such-and-such yet, and even if they’re complete jerks, they will keep quiet. But not before cracking the usual funny: “You mean the part where everyone dies at the end?” That’s always a real knee-slapper.
4. Lock yourself in a closet. Pack some music to pass the time. Put it on an iPod, not an iPhone. Leave behind all audiobooks, comic books and novels—graphic or otherwise—as these things tend to become movies and TV shows, all potential spoilers.
5. Spend more time watching movies and TV shows. It’s that simple, really. We used to live in a time when one had five to 10 years before plot points became public domain. Now it’s barely five to 10 months. So stop dawdling. And please, put your smartphone in another room while you watch. Midway into my House of Cards binge, I developed a crush on Frank Underwood’s new bodyguard. So I searched Google Images for Nathan Darrow, the actor who plays him, and instantly learned way too much about an upcoming episode. Sadly, I can’t blame that spoiler on anyone but myself.