Wow, so before I get into this post, I want to say a huge thank you to the more than 70 people who took my survey! I so appreciate your thoughts.
Last month, I ended up being dragged on Instagram for defending a book blogger who didn’t post a spoiler warning for a book box reveal. My intention was to make her feel not alone and in a twist of irony, I felt very alone as more than 7 people decided to band together to tell me off. It wasn’t fun. But it made me realize that people have very strong feelings about spoilers and what actions are appropriate to take on social when they pop up.
So I created a survey on spoilers and shared it with groups on Twitter and Facebook, including the OwlCrate Society to get bookish people’s input. This post shares my results.
Before I get into the stats, I want to quickly share what ‘policing an account’ means, as per how the people in the survey understand it:
Policing an account: A communication effort directed at adapting the content of another’s personal social media feed. Includes commenting on someone’s posts, direct messaging, reporting behavior that is allowed but not liked by the user. People who police others’ account might mean well and be polite, but the goal is still to alter another’s social feed/posts to meet the user’s goals.
I understand that my definition of policing might make some people uncomfortable because they might recognize their behavior on social fits the bill and nobody wants to think of themselves as ‘policing another.’ I get that, and my goal isn’t to make anybody uncomfortable. It is okay if you don’t agree with other people’s feelings on this or even my own personal feelings. My goal is to present what my survey revealed and if that makes you think, then that’s okay.
So let’s share all the important stats first (with my thoughts), and then I’ll share some people’s specific thoughts.
*Do book spoilers on social media bother you? 52.1% YES, 47.9% NO
*Do book box/unboxing spoilers on social bother you? 35.6% YES, 64.4% NO
These two stats were so interesting to me. We hear all the time from people bothered by spoilers, but there are more out there that don’t care than you would think!
*On what platform do you see the most spoilers? Instagram led the way (76%) followed by Facebook and Twitter
*Are you part of a social media group that censors spoilers or requires a spoiler warning? 69.9% YES, 30.1% NO (the majority of these groups are on Facebook)
*Have you ever seen someone on social media get called out for not posting a spoiler warning/blank slide first on Insta? 74% YES, 20.5% NO, 5.5% MAYBE
So, the majority of us have seen someone get called out on Insta for not posting a spoiler warning or blank slide first. This shows that policing behavior is definitely afoot.
*Have you ever personally called someone out on social for posting a spoiler without a warning? (This includes comments) 75.3% NO, 19.2% YES, 5.5% MAYBE
*Do you believe that social media platforms, excluding private groups, should be regulated or censored for spoilers? 56.2% NO, 28.8% MAYBE, 15.1% YES
The majority of people don’t think social media should be censored for spoilers. Makes sense, as one person put it, “the algorithm for that would be super tricky.” Very true.
*Do you think requesting others to label possible spoilers on their social accounts is a form of censorship? 54.8% NO, 27.4% YES, 17.8% MAYBE
This is super interesting because people were very divided on the answer. I imagine that most people don’t want to think of their actions as the dirty C word, but nearly 45% of respondents believe policing might have a censorship effect on someone’s account.
*When you see a spoiler on social media (not within a private group), what action are you most likely to take? The 3 most common actions were to keep scrolling, unfollow them, or post a comment asking them to remove the spoiler or add a warning. I was a bit alarmed by the number of people who typed in that they think messaging someone privately is an acceptable option (I’ll explain why later.)
*What do you think are socially acceptable options for handling spoiler posts? Top four responses were, in order, scrolling past, unfollowing them, muting them, and commenting on their post.
From what I witnessed on Insta, I thought this survey was going to swing very wildly in one way. But I was surprised by how many people have more mixed views. Below are a few thoughts from those who took the survey:
“I think there’s a bully group on Instagram ATM who call out people for spoiling boxes.”
“Individuals have the right to share their excitement about books or book boxes etc but it is bad manners to post spoilers on social media. Timescale is the key aspect for me. Book box unboxing spoilers only happen within a small window and it is not difficult to wait until most people should have their boxes if you are not willing to put a spoiler warning.”
“I think it is nice and beneficial for people to post spoiler warnings but it is not required. I don’t think it’s cool for people to tell other people what to do with their own accounts.”
“It’s not censorship to request a spoiler warning or label prior to the content. Censorship would be if you weren’t allowed to post a spoiler. Personally I think people that purposefully spoil popular books movies TV shows etc do it to be cruel. It’s not that hard to say hey there’s a spoiler for this here and then people can choose to read further or not. I get people are excited to talk about things but you need to be mindful of others.”
“I think it’s common decency to provide a spoiler warning, but it’s not something that should be forced. It will always remain your own responsibility to avoid spoilers. You are the person going on social media, following certain pages/people and you are the one who does not want to be spoiled. Other don’t owe you anything. So to me complaining about spoilers on someone’s personal feed or in a group where spoilers are allowed is unfair and a bit self-entitled.”
“I personally don’t care a lot either way about spoilers. I’m probably not going to remember them anyway. I do think it’s courteous to post spoiler warnings/slides, but it’s not your job to make sure something isn’t spoiled for someone else. That’s just one of the dangers of interacting with people with similar interests on the internet, or even in real life.”
Personally, I think any responsive or ‘defensive’ options are perfectly acceptable on social. These are options that you take to protect yourself from spoilers without interacting with the user who posted the spoiler; they include unfollowing, muting, staying off Insta for a few days, etc. But offensive options, such as commenting on posts and privately messaging someone to chastise them, isn’t cool IMO. It is their social media account to do with as they please. Posting spoiler warnings is a very nice common courtesy but it is not required for public forums. I think going out of your way to tell someone how they should run their account in order to please you or others is uncool and controlling.
As for censorship, it’s not technically feasible to make Instagram or Facebook have spoiler-warning capabilities. Sorry, folks. That algorithm would be crazy and faulty AF. As with many things in life, it’s up to us to protect ourselves, not tech’s. I also do think that policing others’ account isn’t censorship but another alternative opinion. What I worry about is that people think that one opinion is more correct than another.
Bookish people who want to keep their followers should think about their audience and what they expect. I personally, label spoilers because I think it is courteous to do so. That said, you will never catch me policing another’s social account because it is their right to post what they want.
I know this was a long post so thank you for reading and making it to the end! I had so much fun making this survey and hearing everyone’s thoughts. Please let me know your own thoughts below but please remember to keep it polite. 🙂