Fearing TV Spoilers


By Dane Feldman and Molly Freeman

Photo courtesy of Al Ibrahim.

This week on BTR, we’re delving into the fear of missing out (FOMO) as it pertains to different aspects of our lives. For many of us, entertainment has become a major part of our lives, especially with the rise of online-streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu, which make watching TV and movies incredibly easy and accessible.

However, the downside of such instantaneous entertainment, coupled with its exposure on social media is the rampant–sometimes unavoidable–spoilers. As others talk about the new episode of Mad Men or the new Avengers movie that you haven’t yet caught, the hype can cause FOMO.

BTR’s own Molly Freeman and Dane Feldman discuss how they deal with such FOMO, avoiding spoilers, and keeping up to date on TV.

Photo courtesy of Porsche Brosseau.

Molly’s take:

As an avid TV watcher (what some would probably call an addict), it’s impossible for me to watch all of my shows live–either because I have other plans or because they overlap.

To give you an idea of how much TV I watch, there are nearly 40 different television series that I follow which are either on hiatus or currently airing. There is a new episode for me to watch on nearly every night of the week, and, on the busier nights, there are upwards of five new installments of ongoing series.

I should note, of these 40 shows, I’ve fallen behind on many of them. I only truly stay up-to-date on the series that are either talked about a lot online (Teen Wolf and Game of Thrones) or those that I truly enjoy and look forward to watching (The Flash, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., iZombie, The 100, and Jane the Virgin).

Since I follow so many television shows, I have become well versed in both watching spoilers and the practice of avoiding spoilers. Although some may view spoilers as the reveal of major plot points from an episode (like a major character death), I have a broader definition. If I don’t want a show spoiled for me, then I don’t even want to know if my friends or those I follow on social media enjoyed or disliked the episode; I want to go into it without anything even potentially influencing my judgment.

Of course, because I have such an opinion about spoilers, I have to pick and choose which television series I want to watch live in order to go into the episode with completely fresh eyes. Then, for anything else, I accept the spoilers and reactions of those around me–both in real life and the social media landscape.

Sometimes, I even seek out spoilers before watching an episode of television. For instance, a character died (well, technically they didn’t, but it seemed they had) in the midseason finale of Arrow. However, the episode aired at a time in my life when I was too busy to watch live or catch up and I wanted to know what happened–so I spoiled myself.

Another similar case was with the final season of True Blood. I had stopped enjoying the show, but I wanted to know what happened, so I let a friend of mine tell me what went on in those last episodes.

Still, if I need to miss an episode of a much talked about series or one that I really enjoy, I try to avoid spoilers as best I can until I have a chance to watch. If I don’t have time, I’ll make time–even sacrificing sleep. That may be why some call me a TV addict.

Photo courtesy of Kai Chan Vong.

Dane’s take:

When it comes to television, I have trouble keeping up.

Most of my friends tease me for how few shows I watch and for how rare it is that I see a movie. Rather than watching tons of shows at once, I’ve long been a dedicated viewer of just a handful of programs at a time. I am not ashamed to say that in middle school I was an avid fan of Laguna Beach, One Tree Hill, and Friends, but I missed out on The OC and Degrassi.

I recall feeling left out of certain conversations for the sheer fact that I just wasn’t caught up to those shows. Even today, when they are brought up in conversation, I feel FOMO seep in. Had Netflix and binge watching been around then, my fear of missing out might not have been so severe.

So, fast forward to college when I binged the first three seasons of Mad Men during finals week, seasons two through five of The L Word in a summer, the first six seasons of How I Met Your Mother in half of a semester, and the first five seasons of Sons of Anarchy in that same semester.

I’m currently seeing Mad Men to the end and I watched all of HIMYM, but after falling so far behind in SoA that I had no choice but to let my FOMO go, I stopped watching it.

As of now, the only two shows I am watching are Band of Brothers and Mad Men. Watching Band of Brothers is easy. The mini-series aired 14 years ago, so the spoilers are out there to find, but I don’t have to close my eyes to social media.

Mad Men is an entirely different story. I feel compelled to watch it in real time. Because I don’t, I suffer from FOMO. Knowing my friends are watching, texting about it and live tweeting at once, leaves me feeling torn.

Do I stay up late to join in, or do I deal with the consequences of being not only left out of the conversation, but spoiled as well?

Because this is the final season of the highly-regarded series, everything from episode reviews to outfit commentary can be found simply by loading my Twitter app on my phone or even opening a text message. Sometimes, a spoiler occurs before the episode is even finished airing.

So far this season, I’ve not succumbed to FOMO and I’ve waited to watch each episode On Demand the following day. Nevertheless, the anxiety of putting it off is stressful enough to reconsider.