Netflix and Chill…Like, Really: Modern Etiquette When It Comes to TV, Talking and Spoilers in a Binge-Watching World

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We all know “Netflix and Chill” is a thing, but what about Netflix and chat? Is it ever OK?!

Well, whether or not it’s acceptable to gab through Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life depends on a number of things. For example, who are you watching with? Is this your first time hanging out with Rory and Lorelai in nearly a decade? What about the other viewer? Just how serious is your Stars’ Hollow obsession vs. your remote co-pilot?

It can be tricky determining what amount of conversation (if any) is appropriate when watching TV, Netflix or a movie at home while in the company of others. That’s why—as Lizzie Post, a great-great-granddaughter of manners maven Emily Post and co-host of the Awesome Etiquette podcast, tells E! News—it’s extremely important “to know your friends, know your family…know your audience” in these situations.

Post draws on personal experience here, saying, “When I’m at home with my parents, I have learned to never start talking during a movie, because my father will get so annoyed.”

On the other hand, the co-president of The Emily Post Institute says she and her girlfriends will “often pick movies that we don’t care too much about hearing every last line” of when they’re planning to catch up during a low-key night in. In this case, the viewing experience is “really a chance for us to chat and relay stories that the movie brings up for us,” she says.

The content you’re watching also factors in when it comes to what constitutes acceptable chatter—especially if you’re binge-watching a series. “I think binge-watching a comedy, it would be more appropriate to react to the content you’re watching because it’s funny—you’re laughing, you’re sharing in the joke,” Dr. Geoffrey Graybeal, a media and communications professor at Texas Tech University and an expert on binge-watching, explains to E! News. “Whereas if it’s a drama, regardless of if you’re binge-watching or otherwise, if it’s a high-tension [moment], you don’t want to interrupt that.”

The person with the remote (or the laptop, iPad, Netflix password, etc.) can also set the tone for talkativeness. As Post tells us, she “would expect my host, if they want that [a little-to-no conversation watch session], to communicate that ahead of time.” She suggests making it clear, “maybe even in the invite,” that while you “did want to gather everyone and watch” together, you let guests know “it’s probably not going to be like a gab-through-the-whole-film type of thing.” 

Of course, some content lends itself to chatter more than others. Take Netflix’s Gilmore Girls revival. “I would think that would be prime to watch in a group,” says Dr. Graybeal, based on anecdotal evidence. “Because it’s only four episodes, it’s only about six hours, it’s comedy, it’s a lot of pop culture references [and] it’s very smart writing.” 

Watching something like the Gilmore Girls revival can “definitely be a bonding experience,” says Graybeal, and its “content is something you want to talk about and share, particularly if it’s relevant to your life.” Discussing the “cliffhanger ending for this show” with someone else who’s been waiting to hear those four final words, too, plays into “that bonding experience,” he adds.

But here’s a friendly PSA: Don’t spoil Gilmore Girls‘ ending for those who haven’t seen it yet—that would be a total faux pas!

Then again, there’s some personal responsibility involved when it comes to staying spoiler-free (looking at you, Game of Thrones fans).

As Post tells E! News, “People who are looking to avoid [spoilers]” can protect themselves somewhat by “not going on social media.” And when spoilers start to come up IRL (because let’s face it, they always do), Post suggests speaking up. “I might say, ‘Oh, do you guys mind if we table this conversation to sometime after dinner…because I haven’t seen it yet, and I don’t want to spoil it.”

Most people are understanding about this, “especially when a show is really, really good,” says Post. “They know the excitement that the person who hasn’t seen is in for, and they don’t want to ruin it.” 

That said, sometimes live-tweeting a show is half the fun. “Part of the reason that people will do social television, and will be on Twitter at the same time [as they’re watching], is to have that reaction with each other,” says Dr. Graybeal, who has done extensive research on social television and binge watching. With The Walking Dead, for example, he says people “have that shared experience of who met Lucille…who met the baseball bat fate—[and] they have that moment to talk about.”

When a show is as buzzy as The Walking Dead, Dr. Graybeal says there are only two choices: “You either go to social media to talk about it in real time…[or] you can either stay off it entirely if you’re watching at a later date so you’re not spoiled.”

If you just can’t help yourself and you’re the one posting the spoilers, there are ways to be considerate. Post suggests “[doing] some strategic typing,” such as writing “‘SPOILER ALERT’ across the top of your post and then dropping [the actual spoiler] down…so that whatever you’re going to talk about doesn’t show up as the pre-text that will show up in the post.”

Not everyone will do this, of course, so inevitably some shows will be spoiled by social media. If this happens, don’t lose your cool. Because, as Post tells E! News, “I think being the person who gets annoyed at other people for spoiling something when you’re in an open forum type environment—I think that’s misplaced anger.”

“Don’t get mad at other people for talking about the big game just because you’re trying to avoid seeing it,” adds Post. “I think that’s important to recognize.”

Sometimes we just need to Netflix and actually chill.

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