If you had told me in 1985 that I would be time-shifting on a weekly basis I would have been ecstatic. What an adventure! Of course the reality is that I was already time-shifting in 1985, we just called it the much more boring 'taping TV shows.'
It used to be that everybody watched a TV show when it aired. If you were technically savvy enough you might have a VCR set up to record your favorite shows (with extra time included in case it ran late), but the vast majority of people sat down at 8pm to watch an 8pm show. If you missed a week you tried to catch it in reruns, maybe. Maybe you just never saw the episode. I know a few of you younger types are aghast, but it happened. And some shows in syndication - I didn't even see them in proper order! Think about it and shudder.
In the year 2012 it's quite rare that anybody watches live TV. Especially not the kind of people who go on Twitter (ie, the new watercooler when it comes to talking about TV) and read blogs and stuff. These are the slightly ahead of the curve types, and they watch their shows on TiVo or Apple TV or through torrents (if they're really horrible shits, that is). And they whine - endlessly - about getting spoiled.
Now it's time to quit whining about it. I've certainly quit whining; I ended up being behind on Breaking Bad, only catching up at the beginning of season five. That means a certain big event* at the end of season four got massively, completely spoiled for me. I saw people's reactions online, I saw the memes that came out of it, I was utterly, totally spoiled. I didn't get mad. It was my fault. Totally my fault, and it could have been easily avoided.
There are two main ways I could have avoided being spoiled:
1) I could have stayed away from Twitter until I saw the episode.
You know your favorite show will be spoiled on Twitter as it airs. As it airs on the East Coast, if you live on the West Coast, in fact. You know this. This is no longer a secret. People will take to Twitter to exclaim "Oh shit, they killed Kenny!" and you'll grumble and pitch a fit about it. But you're wrong!
You're very, very wrong. People don't have to accomodate your schedule. This is when the show airs, and they are watching it and commenting on it. This is when the show is available to the public, and they're interacting with it in that unique 21st century way. It might be different if these people were watching a preview screener and spoiling it, but they're just experiencing it real time. It's a pain in the ass being West Coast when it comes to that stuff, but it's something we have to live with out here. It's 75 degrees and sunny 90% of the year - we can put up with this.
The reality is that you can't expect everybody else to bend to your schedule. If you know that your show is going to get spoiled online, stay the hell away from spoilery things. Like Twitter.
2) I could have watched the show in a more timely manner.
If you cared that much, you would watch it sooner. Or live. I have seen - not just once but OFTEN - people bitching on Thursday about Twitter spoiling stuff from a Sunday night show. Or about spoiling the season finale of a show that aired months ago. If seeing that show clean was so important to you, you could have carved the 43 minutes (this is why I time-shift, to get past commercials) out of your life at some point in the previous three days.
It seems to me like this is all about entitlement. Time-shifting is a form of entitlement - I want to watch the show when I want to watch the show, dammit - but the spoilerphobia that is often associated with it is simple selfishness. The mindset here is that everybody else in the world needs to be really sensitive to your scheduling, but that's such a childish, self-centered way of looking at everything. Especially the fast-paced modern media world. It doesn't slow down for you. People shouldn't have to hold their self-expression because you were too lazy to watch a TV show on your DVR (or too cheap to get HBO).
Sometimes there are legitimate reasons why you might miss a show - a wedding or a birth or a death or an illness or a trip - but as soon as you miss a show for a legitimate, real world reason, it becomes pretty obvious to you just how petulant and pathetic the TV spoilerphobia culture is. There are things in life more important than worrying if someone on Twitter spoiled your favorite show.
* while this post is anti-spoilerphobe it would be very dickish of me to wantonly give this plot point away.