Did you hear what happens in "Gravity," the Sandra Bullock-George Clooney film that opened over the weekend?
Oh, sorry. SPOILER ALERT.
How about the way that "Breaking Bad" ende --
Have you heard that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's --
Well, here's a spoiler for you: These days, you can't avoid spoilers. You can only hope to contain them.
By now, you probably know what happened to "Breaking Bad's" Walter White, or what "Game of Thrones' " Red Wedding entailed, or who made a cameo appearance in "This Is the End." Television finales, new movie releases, sports contests -- their plot twists and results are given away, often in real time, all over the Internet.
Josh Solt and Matthew Loew decided to do something about it.
The two techies were tired of seeing spoilers pop up all over their social media feeds, so they created Spoiler Shield, a free mobile app for iPhones that blocks designated information. (The Android version is coming soon, they say.) The app was inspired by their love of sports and that famed "Thrones" episode, says Loew.
"Spoilers are a real problem, particularly for those of us who work long hours," he says. "The 'Red Wedding' episode was the straw that broke the camel's back. We both had prior engagements that prevented us from watching it live, and that was such a social media event with the surprise plot twists that happened that both of us had the episode ruined."
He's already seen results from the creation of Spoiler Shield. Last Sunday he was stuck in Portland, Ore., because of an airplane maintenance problem.
"I missed all of football -- with the exception of the games on the local channels -- and also missed 'Breaking Bad,' " he says. "So I had to use the app for all of those features to protect myself while I spent 11 hours in the airport."
A sociable activity
They're not the only ones offering protection.
Netflix recently introduced "Spoiler Foiler" so "Breaking Bad" fans could steer clear of revelations. Lifehacker and other sites have provided advice for changing browser settings. And last spring Jennie Lamere, then a high school senior, created Twivo, a Google Chrome add-on that eliminates keywords from Twitter feeds on the Web.
Lamere, now a freshman at the Rochester Institute of Technology, came up with the idea at a hackathon she attended. Her impetus: "Dance Moms" and "Pretty Little Liars."
"I saw spoilers for them on Twitter, so I came up with a little spoiler blocker," she says.
Indeed, while "Breaking Bad" has been getting all the attention, it's "Pretty Little Liars" that gets a lot of the tweets.
According to SocialGuide, a Nielsen-affiliated firm that measures "ratings" through social media, the most tweeted-about show of all time is last season's "Liars" finale, which was cited in almost 2 million tweets during its airing window. By contrast, "Breaking Bad" was mentioned in about 1.24 million tweets.
But why do we need such apps at all? Couldn't you just revert back to the, oh, 1990s and shut off all unnecessary devices?
Jennifer Barnes, a psychology professor at the University of Oklahoma, notes that storytelling is inherently sociable, so it's only natural that we share our thoughts with others.
However, the problem is that we invest in these fictional characters so much that even though we know fiction isn't real, "on a gut level we feel like it is," she says. So we may get upset by spoilers because we've had our illusion ruined, she says.
"Does knowing what's going to happen serve as a reminder that what you're watching isn't real?" she asks.