Though I've never seen an episode of The Walking Dead, my Facebook newsfeed was abuzz Sunday night when the show's official account spoiled the mid-season finale for many of its devoted followers. While the image (below) was posted immediately after the east coast showing, those who run the account failed to consider DVR viewers and its west coast audience before ruining the deadly twist, causing quite the uproar. Angry fans did not hesitate to express their discontent over said image, resulting in its eventual removal.For many TV shows, social media has become an exciting way to spark conversation and boost popularity, as such channels allow viewers to engage with one another and discuss storylines in real time. In fact, many TV shows encourage audience members to tweet while they watch in an effort to reignite the lost art of live viewing. Yet, despite its allure, TV viewers don't necessarily have the time or resources needed to watch all their favorite programs when they air.
In this era of DVR and streaming services, viewers no longer need to gather in front of the television or set their VCR, as such behaviors (and technologies!) have become obsolete. But, by adding social components to the mix, TV shows run the risk of walking the fine line between engagement and alienation. Those that watch programs live typically scold those who don't, with many suggesting their fellow fans "stay off the Internet" until they've caught up--an exhausted and ridiculous argument at that. Those that watch shows after they've aired, however, simply ask for common courtesy.
Of course, these viewers understand that they cannot block out any and all live comments from random individuals, as that's the risk they take. But these delayed viewers--west coast audiences, in particular--should be able to follow their favorite shows on Facebook and Twitter without worrying about premature spoilers. If these popular programs want to build and retain their social following, they must be cognizant of all their fans, not just one subset. Otherwise, these communities run the risk of abandoning their fans and diminishing their social presence. The Walking Dead, for instance, boasts an incredibly loyal fan base, but just as they're quick to tout their love for the series, these very viewers are equally vocal when they're displeased. Thus, those that maintain such social accounts must think before they act, or else incur the wrath of unhappy viewers across the Internet.