The Internet has always been full of hackers, porn and comment trolls but there’s a new scourge that’s terrorizing our online existence: TV spoilers. With “Game of Thrones,” “Louie,” “Mad Men” and other popular shows returning in April, this month’s TV schedule it shaping up to be particularly hellish for fans trying to keep up with the Kardashians on their own schedule.
But there’s now a number of apps and browser plug-ins that promise to eliminate spoilers from your social media feeds. It’s clear they’re needed. Dish, HBO, PlayStation and Nickelodeon have jumped into an already packed pool of on-demand options populated by Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and digital video recorder services. Advertisers are feeling the pinch too, with primetime ratings dropping across the board in the most recent financial quarter.
All of which means it’s getting really hard to watch shows before finding out what happened online. Here are a few ways to fix that (no spoilers, we promise).
Scrub Your Twitter Feed
Silencer is a free extension for Google Chrome users that lets downloaders eliminate words and entire phrases from their Twitter feed. No more worrying about who you follow or what they’re going to say: Just enter “Joffrey Baratheon” into the mute bar and watch every would-be “Game of Thrones” tweet including that phrase evaporate. Silencer even comes with Mute Packs for sports teams and popular shows, automatically wiping away dozens of phrases associated with a title or sporting event with one click.
But it’s not perfect. Spoiler-tweets will still sometimes appear in your timeline for a fraction of a second -- just long enough to read -- before disappearing. And be warned, muting a word indiscriminately blocks all tweets containing that word from your feed, whether it has to do with a show or not.
Silencer is available only in the Google Chrome store but the TweetDeck app has a similar function. Go to Settings and select Global Filter.
Stalk Your Facebook Friends In Peace
The Spoiler Shield app works in much the same way Silencer does but on a broader scale. Available as a Chrome extension or mobile app for iOS and Android, users simply download Spoiler Shield and give it access to their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Then comes a list of popular shows. You can remove any unwanted shows simply by turning a block on or off. The offending post appears in your feed with a Spoiler Shield logo over it, which is removed if you click on the symbol twice.
There’s also Facebook Posts Filter, another free plug-in that blocks all posts containing specific keywords. Don’t forget Facebook already gives you the option to see fewer of your friends’ posts, or unfollow them completely without their knowledge.
Pro tip: None of these filters are specific to TV shows. Don’t be afraid to block your former high school bully who’s been reduced to ranting about the latest political sideshow. Election season is coming soon.
Use Common Sense
Think of avoiding spoilers like your own private state of emergency. Avoid travel unless it’s absolutely necessary.
At a time when following a show is as much about participating in a discussion about the show as it is watching the plot unfold, certain websites are inherently dangerous.
Don’t Google a show title or character names. The auto-complete search bar is a major risk, even in the hours after an episode where a major event occurs. Don’t believe it? Type in “Tony Soprano” or “Ned Stark” and see what happens.
Keep track of the most frequent offenders. It’s not only friends and followers who drop hints about a show’s plot. Entertainment Weekly infamously tweeted out plot points during the final episode of “Breaking Bad” and Rolling Stone committed a similar gaffe after a particularly shocking episode of “Game of Thrones.”
Come to think of it, any news site that covers TV might be suspect.