A Lesson In Online Etiquette: How Game of Thrones Proved Me Wrong About the Internet and Manners

By: Melissa Levin

Editor’s Note: Coincidentally, this piece contains a spoiler about the “Red Wedding” episode of Game of Thrones.

Last weekend was my birthday. To celebrate, I invited a few close friends to join me for dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant in the Village. When deciding between whether to have said dinner on Saturday or Sunday night, I had a few considerations to weigh before making the reservation. Of course it was important that everyone could make it; of course it was important that a Sunday night celebration meant everyone couldn’t drink as much as one on Saturday. All of these things were definitely factors. Yet, I quickly came to realize that my most significant determining factor wasn’t about the guest list or my ability to let loose and party. No, my biggest concern about having the dinner party on Sunday night was that there was a chance I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be home and indulge in Mad Men and Game of Thrones.

Now, when I say “indulge”, I don’t necessarily mean “watch”, per se. What I really mean is “watch spoiler-free”. Because while it may be true that with the advent of DVR, Hulu, and downloadable television, watching any show in real time on a good, old-fashioned flat screen TV can be deemed a novel event these days, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every show is made to be consumed in such a manner. Often, watching shows like Mad Men or Game of Thrones on a lengthy time delay is basically begging for it to be spoiled by any idiot with a blog or Twitter account.

Technology doesn’t come without a price. To watch a thirty minute situation comedy a day [or even sometimes an hour] after the masses have had the opportunity to view it may merely result in the spoiling of a funny line or scene (i.e., your college roommate posting as her Facebook status the newest Ron Swanson meme, or; your brother tweeting the most scathing insult on last night’s ep of Veep). But, to watch an intense hour-long drama on a time delay typically feels like you’re inviting the ruin of that climactic, OMG moment in the show the second you go on the internet.

I’ve had television shows ruined for me in that manner before; we all have. Hell, I’ve ruined shows like that for people before. But in my defense, I only did it purposefully once, and the guy had it coming! I mean, how can you actually say that you didn’t want the finale of LOST to answer all your questions? You know what? If that’s how you feel then you totally deserved to be told before you saw it that you’d get your wish and that you also just wasted countless hours of your life trying to figure out the great mysteries, only to be left in the end alone with a puff of inexplicable black smoke and a displaced polar bear!!! Sigh, I guess it’s still too soon.

Either way, the fact remains: between email, text, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, and Woof (if you’re friends with Ryan Howard or Kelly Kapur), your favorite television show is bound to be spoiled one time or another, leaving the element of surprise a thing of the past. And the second worst part about that (next to the actual spoil, of course), is that Internet etiquette in such cases hardly ever exists.

Last Sunday though, while I was enjoying my early (but apparently not early enough) dinner party with my friends, I was pleasantly surprised to find nearly 25 Facebook and Twitter posts along the lines of “Holy Shit Game Of Thrones!!!” but with no further revealing information offered. Even the next day when I cautiously ventured onto some of my favorite television blog sites, I was shocked to see nearly every article posted was filled with the words “SPOILER ALERT” right up front. This left me with an optimistic hope and a new, unexpected curiosity: Has the Internet actually grown some manners?

It’s difficult to answer that question affirmatively, especially when considering that we live in a world where every minutia of programming is dissected to the umpteenth degree within 5 minutes of airing. And this world is also filled with extremely loyal, extremely passionate TV watchers (ahem), who take this stuff seriously. I mean, I’m not talking about finding out what color Kourtney painted her toenails last week on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, I’m speaking for those of us out there who can’t seem to get over the fact that watching an episode of The Walking Dead a day later means you already know that zombie Sophia’s coming out of the shed before even hitting “play” on your DVR.

That’s why this whole “Red Wedding” Game of Thrones thing is a perfect example of how it’s actually still possible to be shocked in the Internet age. This wasn’t a “Khaleesi just lit the entire slave village on fire with her dragons” minor reveal. In terms of incredible plot twists, “The Red Wedding” was a massive secret kept from the rest of us by all those epic, fantasy-loving nerds who read George R. R. Martin’s books thirteen years ago! Thir.Teen.Years!! In the Internet age that’s forever. It’s like the equivalent of the time it takes Justin Bieber to grow facial hair. I just can’t believe the social media etiquette exhibited here.

I’m almost as shocked by all the caution and restraint displayed by the fans as I am by the actual scene itself. We all know that no one gets more joy out of spoiling such topics on the Internet than a smug nerd armed with revealing information. Yet, all in all, I’m proud of you nerds! For once you rose above your instinctual tendencies to condescend by way of keyboard and let the rest of us experience the same emotions you did when you first read the scene all those years ago.

Well, maybe not the same emotions. I’m guessing not many of you found yourselves more upset by the idea that that hawk pecking at Jon Snow’s beautiful face could leave it permanently scarred, than you were by Robb, his wife, mother and unborn child all being brutally murdered. Anyone else feel that way or am I just that terrible of a person? You know what, don’t answer that. Some things are better left to figuring out on your own. And I can safely say that I’d rather not have that revealed by the Internet either.