How to avoid spoilers online

Ignorance is bliss.
Game of Thrones
Don't want to know what Daenerys and Jon are up to? You don't have to. HBO

If you haven’t seen the latest episode of Game of Thrones, then the web can be a dangerous place to venture. In a split second, a revealing headline or tweet can spoil the next installment, or even a whole season, of your favorite show. But for most of us, staying offline to completely avoid spoilers isn’t really an option.

If you must log on, and still want to minimize your chances of seeing spoilers, we’ve got some helpful tips for you. Obviously we won’t be able to cover every site and news source you’re likely to come across—we all use the web differently—so you may need to adapt our advice slightly to fit with your browsing habits. We can’t promise that you won’t see some kind of hint out of the corner of your eye (or hear your coworkers discussing last night’s episode), but at least you can reduce the risk of getting caught out by spoilers online.

Install browser add-ons

The simplest way to avoid spoilers is to allow a browser extension to protect you. Many of these services can interact with every page you visit in your web browser, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or a general news site. While these methods aren’t foolproof, they can take care of most spoilers in one fell swoop.

Unspoiler is one of the best extensions we’ve come across, though it’s only available for Google Chrome. Install it, click on the extension’s icon in your browser, and then type the names of the shows you don’t want to read about in the box at the top. After you’ve saved your choices, Unspoiler puts red banners over anything on any website referring to those shows. If you’re feeling brave or think the extension made a mistake, though you can override its warnings.

Unspoiler works across all the sites you visit. David Nield/Popular Science

Not a Chrome user? Try a Firefox alternative. ProCon Latte Content Filter primarily protects you from pornography and other unwholesome content, but it works equally well for blocking references to your favorite shows until you’ve had chance to catch up. Like Unspoiler, it’s free. Install the Firefox add-on, click the extension icon on the browser toolbar, and then choose Profanity List from the options on the left. In this case, instead of swear words, you can filter the names of your favorite shows (though feel free to leave profanities in there as well). You can also choose a word to act as a placeholder and appear on sites you visit in lieu of the filtered words. For example, you can replace any mention of Game of Thrones or Jon Snow with the word “SPOILER!”

Social Fixer
Social Fixer focuses on Facebook spoilers. David Nield/Popular Science

If you’re worried about spoilers on Facebook, try a more focused extension such as Social Fixer. Although it only protects you from Facebook content, it works with most browsers, covering Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari. The add-on comes with a pre-built Game of Thrones filter, and you can create your own filter for other shows.

Install the free extension to set customized filters for your news feed. First, click the Social Fixer icon on your browser toolbar, then Options. Open up the Filters page, and you can use the checkboxes at the top to block certain words in posts, on other people’s timelines, and in groups. Click Create A New Filter, enter the words and phrases you don’t want to see in the If… box, and give your filter a name and description, such as “The Americans spoilers.” Click Done Editing Filter, and you’re all set.

Facebook may be a breeding ground for spoilers, but so is Twitter. To protect yourself while browsing the latter social network, read on.

Filter Twitter

If you browse Twitter regularly, you know it’s one of the most spoiler-packed sites to visit: Anybody can tweet out a plot point or screen capture at any time. Luckily, you can filter out most of these revealing comments.

Open up the Twitter settings page in your web browser and then click the Muted words link on the left. When you type in specific words and phrases, Twitter will automatically hide tweets that contain that particular content from your timeline and notifications. To shut down unwanted spoilers, simply add the relevant keywords—maybe the hashtag of the show you want to avoid, the names of major characters, and so on—to the list of muted words.

Twitter lets you mute specific words and phrases. David Nield/Popular Science

Twitter’s mute function provides some protection against unwanted spoilers, and the official Twitter client TweetDeck also comes with its own protections. Click the sliders icon at the top of any column (like your timeline or your mentions), then select Content, and go to the Exclude box, where you can enter the words you don’t want to see popping up.

While muting can filter out the worst reveals, this technique doesn’t guarantee spoiler-free browsing: The people you follow might post a spoiler without any hashtag or reference to the show or its characters. But it should go a long way toward reducing your chances of seeing something you don’t want to. When you’ve caught up with the show, you can go back and unmute these words and phrases to rejoin the online conversation.

Beware the comments

Comment sections and forums are notorious for spoiling shows. They earn that reputation because they’re often less regulated than major sites, and because some commenters just love to be annoying. If you can switch off or hide comments on the sites you regularly frequent, then do so—or maybe just resist scrolling so far down the page.

When it comes to blocking comments, browser extensions can once more lend a hand. For example, you don’t want to stumble across revealing comments while you watch an episode preview on YouTube. So go ahead and install No YouTube Comments for Chrome. Just click the button on the browser toolbar, and the extension will hide comments below videos.

Shut Up
Shut Up can help hide comments on multiple sites. David Nield/Popular Science

Firefox users can try Block Comments, which covers YouTube and a handful of other sites. Once the add-on is up and running, it simply prevents comments from loading on YouTube, so you can’t accidentally catch a mention of a major plot twist.

On Chrome and Safari, Shut Up gives you an even more comprehensive comment-blocking tool. In addition to YouTube, it covers many other popular sites. You simply toggle comments on and off using the button on the browser toolbar. Then the extension remembers which sites you have and haven’t enabled comments on.