Why Facebook’s ‘Trending’ section is like that one really annoying friend

Troll-face

“So I saw Titanic at the weekend”
“Oh yeah? Is it good? I’m going tomorrow”
“Yeah, it’s not bad, I mean I knew Jack was going to die from the start, obviously…”
“FLARGH why would you tell me that?!”

(Apologies to anyone who was unaware of Jack’s demise, but come on).

Facebook now has a ‘Trending’ section. I’ve had it for a while but all the big sites just announced it, so I think it must have just finished rolling out to everyone.

It’s a useful section in that it makes you aware of big news stories and exciting developments in the world.

It’s a terrible section in that it instantly spoils major plotlines in popular shows.

It’s done this to me twice now. First, when Brian died in Family Guy, and now:

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See, I don’t watch Coronation Street, but Facebook doesn’t know that. For all Facebook knows, I’m a huge Corrie fan who recorded the big episode and hasn’t watched it yet. This story appeared within an hour of the episode ending – is that the statute of limitations on spoilers now?

I don’t believe the internet should be spoiler-free. In fact, someone once berated me for giving away the twist in a film from 1973 (Soylent Green - which has one of the best-known twists of all time) on Twitter. But I think it’s only fair that we get a few hours of breathing space – I’d never post “Well, Hayley’s popped her clogs” the same night the episode aired. I might subtly refer to how emotional the episode was, or how brilliantly-acted, but I’d never just give it away. If you’re wondering why I’m OK with revealing Hayley’s demise in this post, by the way, it’s because A) it’s been a day now and B) Facebook’s told everyone anyway.

You could argue that I’m very likely to see the same spoiler in a tweet or a friend’s Facebook status. Completely true. But in that case, it’s a person choosing to spoil it for me – being a dick, in other words – as opposed to a corporation. There was outcry when the Metro newspaper posted details of a Game of Thrones episode two days after it aired – now we don’t even get two hours?

I don’t disagree with the Trending section itself – I think it’s a good and useful thing, and I’ve discovered several stories through it. But Facebook, you’re not my spoiler-happy ‘friend’ from high school who thinks it’s hilarious to ruin it for everyone else. You’re a social network. Do you think you could at least manage a spoiler warning? A ‘click-through-at-your-peril’? Or, dare I suggest, a subtle summary that hints at the big reveal without beaning me in the face with it?

I thought Facebook might have something to say about this, so I clicked ‘Learn more’ on the Trending panel. Here’s what it told me:

trending

Oh Facebook. You are SO hard to love.

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