The Star Wars Ignorance Challenge

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Can you avoid information on the Internet?

I have not seen the new Star Wars trailer.

I didn’t know about it until my friend texted me about it on Friday, saying how he doesn’t think Episode IX will break records like the previous two. I told him I hadn’t seen the trailer yet, and he told me to go watch it so we could talk about it.

Sorry buddy, I’m going to try a social experiment instead. I’m going to try to go into the movie this December (I assume it’s December, too risky to check) knowing as little as possible.

This should be as much a test of my own willpower as it will be of the power of the Internet; specifically, the ability to avoid information in a world flooded with information.

What I already know:

  • It’s Star Wars: Episode IX (that’s obvious). I think the title is “The Rise of Skywalker,” thanks to a meme my friend sent me before I decided to start this challenge. Don’t correct me if I’m wrong.
  • Lando is coming back. Thanks, Daniel, way to spoil it for me.
  • Palpatine is coming back somehow. Again, unavoidable memes on the internet and partial titles on suggested YouTube videos. Plus, typing in “palpatine” into the Chrome search bar for a quick spellcheck returned “palpatine episode 9” as a recommended search phrase, so yeah.

Honestly, that’s about it, or at least all that I know I know.

Now, the hard part, going into the theater with little more than that (I’m sure I’ll know the title before the beginning credits roll. Kind of hard to order a movie ticket without seeing the title of the movie).

Plan of attack

It’s hard to make a plan to avoid something on the Internet, since exposure to the information is largely out of my control (short of me just not going on the Internet for eight months, which we all know is out of the question).

The best I can do is be aware of where I might be accidentally exposed, and be alert to those situations.

Media outlets are out of the question. Even Googling the words “star” and “war” will have to be approached with extreme caution.

Thanks to a combination of the fire at Notre Dame, the season premiere of Game of Thrones and my own dumb luck, it seems I have avoided the initial buzz on Twitter about the trailer, but I’m certainly not in the clear. I’m sure I may have seen some quick tweet about the trailer, but unless it was explicit and/or obvious about referring to Star Wars, I likely breezed over it and will forget it. I’m not sure if I follow any Star Wars-related accounts, but I obviously can’t go check without likely spoiling it for myself (at least the movie title, I’m assuming). But now that buzz has died down, until a new trailer drops or reviews start coming in, Twitter will just be a game of Minesweeper.

YouTube is a whole other beast. First, there’s YouTube pre-roll ads; given my interest in movies and general nerdiness, I’m sure the YouTube algorithms believe I’m a prime target for Star Wars ads. I have ad blockers in place that seem to work well enough, as long as I’m on my home WiFi network. Outside my house, it might be a lot of quick draws on the power button to shut off my phone screen.

Then there’s YouTube suggested videos. Again, based on my history, movie discussions, trailer breakdowns and Easter egg videos are right in my wheelhouse. I already had the Palpatine spoil confirmed thanks to the title of a suggested YouTube video. Much like Twitter, with time the quantity of the videos should die down (if it hasn’t stopped already); unlike Twitter, however, videos from weeks and months ago can easily resurface in my feed.

And those are just direct YouTube videos. There’s Episode IX YouTube comments on unrelated videos, shout-outs from content creators (I had to skip the Epic Voice Guy reading comments on the latest Honest Trailer, afraid he was going to read some Episode IX trailer quote) and references in mashup videos. I (shamefully) consume a lot of meme compilation videos. I can only pray that there wasn’t a moment in the new trailer that has become a meme and might pop up in a new video.

Reddit is a bit easier to control, as long as I stay off specific subs and, for good measure, the homepage. But speaking of memes, it’s impossible to predict if something will pop up on r/funny or r/memes or another unrelated sub.

I’ve already hopped off Facebook, and I don’t consume much television. With what television I do watch (mostly through PlayStation Vue), some stations actually cut out the broadcast commercials (or run network promos instead). The main four networks, NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX, do not, and I can guarantee Disney’s going to get some commercial time on its ABC and now FOX networks. Interestingly, Disney-owned ESPN does cut commercials, but until football season starts up again, that station won’t be getting much of my viewership.

Regardless, since cutting the cord a few years ago, the lack of commercials combined with my reduced viewing habits has often left me unexposed and unaware of new movies. I’ve frequently walked into a theater over the past two years having never heard of a movie before seeing it. With blockbuster movies whose ad campaigns expanded beyond television ads, it’s a bit tougher, but with reduced TV exposure and satellite radio blocking radio ads, someone would have to post up a billboard or take out ad space on a website for me to see an ad for the movie.

Closer to the movie, particularly when tickets go on sale, I suspect web ads will start popping up all over the place. A network-wide Pi-Hole ad blocker I have in place will hopefully fend off most of that, though admittedly, I’ve never tested it against the side banner ads on IMDb and the like. I may just have to forgo looking at movie plot synopses for a couple months (the horror!).

I’m sure there’s a plethora of other places where the information could pop up, and again it boils down to just how much of it is out of my control. A simple Google search or webpage visit for one piece of information nowadays can involuntarily expose you to so much other information.

To be honest, I fully expect to fail this challenge. I just hope that it comes down to an unavoidable Reddit comment, rather than my crumbling self-control.