I’m a Mad Men fan with no cable, and when I was unable to watch new episodes live this spring, I avoided the places on the internet where I expected to see “spoilers.” Half the trending topics on Twitter during the series premiere were Mad Men-related, and I knew there’d be some discussion there every week. So, I didn’t look at Twitter the day after an episode aired.
You have to make a choice: Feed your social media addiction, or avoid spoilers? I’ve learned from my role in covering the Olympic Games that many people do not understand this reality.
At work, we discussed the two coverage options: the “this event is over, click to see the results (link)” approach, and the posting-results-straight-to-Twitter approach. We decided on the latter, for a few reasons:
- We’re a news organization, Olympic results are news, and it’s our job to report the news. It’s not like we’re telling everyone what happened on Mad Men. This is NEWS!
- If we don’t post the results directly, someone else will, and they’ll get all the retweets.
- Big news (like Usain’s win) will be “spoiled” by appearing under Trending Topics, whether we contribute to that or not.
- Because of this, and because of common sense, people will stay off social media if they want to avoid seeing results…right?
Wrong. In fact, even when people can’t watch the live feed because they’re at work, it doesn’t stop them from being on Twitter. And they don’t just read what we’re posting—they send angry responses.
I’m having more and more trouble not replying: “Sorry, we didn’t know you’d been captured by the people who put a gun to your head and threaten to shoot if you don’t check Twitter every five minutes during the Olympics!” (Alas. That’s longer than 140 characters.)
Before the internet, if you didn’t want to see who won a sporting event, you wouldn’t walk up to a newsstand the next morning and read all the headlines. Just because this “newsstand” is easily accessible from a device in your pocket or your purse doesn’t mean the rules are different.
Please, if there are Olympic events you care about, take this advice: Look up when they take place, and also when they’ll be televised. If you can’t watch at either time, stay off Twitter until you can, or until at least 24 hours after it’s over.
Try reading a book to pass the time, or watching a movie. If you’re at work, try, oh…doing some work. Avoiding Twitter is hard, but it’s not fatal. And having a sporting event “spoiled” for you isn’t fatal, either—especially when you could have prevented it.