Help! Someone save TV from Twitter!

Social networking and instant status updates are totally ruining TV, from time-difference spoilers to highly overhyped movies, it's time for technology to fix what technology is ruining.

Molly Wood Former Executive Editor
Molly Wood was an executive editor at CNET, author of the Molly Rants blog, and host of the tech show, Always On. When she's not enraging fanboys of all stripes, she can be found offering tech opinions on CBS and elsewhere, and offering opinions on everything else to anyone who will listen.
Molly Wood
3 min read

I know this isn't the most important issue affecting the world right now. But I can't take it anymore. It's a really good time for TV right now, and Twitter is totally ruining it. "Lost" is back on, "Survivor: Heroes and Villains" is one episode in, the Olympics are not even one night old as I write this. And Twitter, bless its little heart, has spoiled each and every one of them for me at some point this week.

The straw-breaker for me came from the CNN Breaking News Twitter feed, which delivered up news of a U.S. gold medal victory Saturday night before the West Coast feed had even begun. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm well aware that this is due to a bad NBC programming decision, as it insists on tape-delaying the Olympic broadcast to the West Coast, even though the host city, Vancouver, is actually in the Pacific time zone. It boggles the mind, it really does.

To its very minor credit, NBC does seem to be catching on. The network has already said it will likely air the Emmys live, thanks in part to the Twitter factor, which turns the microblogging site into a minefield for anyone who cares about awards-show winners (some of us do, thank you very much). So, there may be hope for the future. But that hope only extends to live events, for now.

Networks aren't likely to rearrange their entire prime-time schedules to accommodate coastal differences--especially since only about 30 percent of U.S. households have DVRs. Putting "Lost" on at dinnertime on the West Coast will happen right around the time Jack stops being a self-righteously unbearable prig. (Spoiler alert.)

So, what are we to do? Sure, we can try to hide from Twitter when good shows are on, but no one's perfect--especially not hard-core Internet addicts like, um, some of my friends. And even if I can avoid Twitter when "Glee" is on, what about movies, which are regularly spoiled by Internet discussion? What about the feeling that if you don't see "Avatar" on opening weekend, you'll be so sick of hearing about it on Twitter that you'll gradually lose any desire to see it at all? Once you've spent a week or two embroiled in endless 140-character dissections of its "Dances with Wolves" plot, "amazing" graphics, and @arguments about whether that Na'Vi chick is hot or not, "It's Complicated" starts to feel deliciously underhyped. (Shudder.)

Here's what I propose. We need a technology solution to the problem of technology ruining TV. Twitter, if you're listening, or maybe someone who's built a good Twitter app, we need invisible #spoiler posts, stat.

You know how RunPee.com uses white text for its plot recaps and they're visible only if you highlight the text? I propose that Twitter or TweetDeck or somebody implement that feature for tweets about TV, movies, live events--anything that includes the #spoiler hash tag. Read the tag, turn the text white, and let me decide if I want to know. Maybe make it so everything after the tag is white, so I can say, "Human Target #spoiler: it's totally kickass." After that, it's all honor system, and I have a feeling the Twitter community would be happy to oblige.

See? Easy? Now, if someone could get to work on that ASAP, we may still be able to save the Olympics for those of us on the West Coast. Speaking of which, I have a completely non-suspenseful race to watch. Tweet me when that hashtag hack is working, ok? Thanks.

Disclosure: "Survivor: Heroes and Villains" is broadcast on CBS. CNET News is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.