Spoilers are a violation of fan code. Ruining the enjoyment of a beloved series or books simply for sadistic pleasure is a dick move. Full stop. However, it’s incredibly difficult for fans to strike a balance between discussing and creating content, as fans are apt to do, and welcoming less acquainted fans into a spoiler-free environment. Talking about an object of devotion isn’t inherently evil, but spoilers, given accidentally through a social misstep or purposefully because people want to be dicks is, at the very least, an unforgivable act.

So, how do fans navigate the messy world of spoilers? By following reasonable rules, the risk of spoilers should be minimized, and all fans can enjoy fandom in a fun, spoiler-free way.

Rule #1: Don’t Be A Dick

The unspoiled can unilaterally stop any conversation about a piece of media. This trumps all other rules.

On the other side, the unspoiled should expect aftershows, discussion posts, etc. to have many spoilers, and these should remain so up-to-date fans can talk to one another without ruining it for others.

If someone says they don’t want to know about something, don’t argue that it isn’t really a spoiler. The conversation ceases when the unspoiled wants it to cease, even if it doesn’t violate the following rules.

Don’t loudly talk in public places about the twist ending of a popular movie, television series, or book shortly after its release. Be aware of the others around you who may have not gotten out to the theater or bookshop.

Don’t make social media accounts around a major spoiler (e.g. a Twitter account with the username being a major spoiler). Also don’t go out of your way to post spoilers on every comments section. Take up a hobby instead.

Rule #2: Twitter Is Spoilers

Because live-tweeting is a thing, Twitter is a minefield for those hoping to remain unspoiled. Muting or taking a break from Twitter if you’re involved with a fandom Twitter is the best way to avoid spoilers.

The same does not apply to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. A live thread of moment-to-moment reactions is not a thing on other platforms.

If you want to be kind to your followers, creating a thread of live-tweets that can be muted is the way to go.

Rule #3: Wait One Year

The length of time where you can freely talk about spoilers and not feel bad about an accidental (that’s the key word here: remember, if the person you’re talking to is in the process of viewing/reading and you talk about it anyway, refer to rule #1) spoiling is one year after the thing’s release.

In the case of an adaptation, avoid spoiling from the time the first teaser is released to one year after the thing’s release. Still, don’t go out of your way to spoil it for others upon the first announcement (again, rule #1). Instead, tread carefully.

Rule #4: It’s Not A Spoiler If It’s On The Movie Poster

This is another rule where fans don’t have to feel bad, but are still violating rule #1 to actively point it out to others who are avoiding spoilers.

If an actor is listed on the movie poster, their appearance in the film is not a spoiler. The same principle applies to trailers.

This does not count for reality TV. Only real-life non-manufactured events.

Rule #5: Real Life Has No Spoilers

Events that happen in real life are not spoilers. Documentaries, biopics, etc. do not have spoilers.

It’s still fair, however, for fans to want to see an artistic interpretation first.

Rule #6: Things That Happen In The First Ten Minutes Are Not Spoilers (Usually)

If it happens in the first ten minutes of  movie or hour long show, the first 5 minutes of a 30 minute show, or the first chapter of a book, it’s not a spoiler.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. If, for example, a named character dies within the first few minutes, it’s a spoiler. This rule only counts for mundane events and world-building.

Rule #7: Articles With Vague Titles That Feature The Picture Of A Main Character Still Count As Spoilers

It’s become increasingly common on Facebook and other social media that fans will share an article with the title of “There Was A Shocking Death In Tonight’s *insert media here*” and will feature the picture of the now deceased character. This is lazy, unethical, and promotes spoilers.

Writers are free to give spoilers in appropriately labeled blog posts and articles, but the spoiler should not be available in the preview. This violates the relationship between the writer and the fan community for who they are writing.

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With these simple rules, we can make fandoms a better place.