Let’s Talk About Trigger Warnings


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Trigger Warnings make for difficult discussions. Many people think they’re great, but others think they’re a waste of time. Any conversation about trigger warnings can go down hill very fast. And they often lead to people mocking social justice warriors. But I think the discussion is worth having.

I’m not easily triggered. I’ve been through things that would traumatize people without any real lasting affect. As such, I ofter forget to put trigger warnings on my posts. Nonetheless, I think trigger warnings are important. There are people who have gone through a traumatic event, whether recently or years ago, who are easily reminded of their trauma. Sometimes the reminder is bad enough to send them to the hospital. A lot of people say that those who are easily triggered should just get help and stay off the internet. But these people generally are getting help. Many of them see a therapist weekly, or even daily. They are on more medication than most of us could even imagine. Some even find themselves going in and out of psych wards. They are dealing with the trauma, but they will always have the scars. To tell them to get help is presumptuous and dismissive. And, what’s more, it isn’t always possible to just stay off the internet. We rely too much on it as a society. It could be the only way to contact people, it could be the main source of entertainment, or it could be required for work. So to tell someone to just avoid the internet is also presumptuous and dismissive. Especially since a person could do their best to avoid triggers and just happen across one because someone posted something on Facebook, or their was an ad in an article, or because a comment was made in a chat room. Triggers happen, and the person who experiences triggers shouldn’t be blamed or dismissed for having those triggers.

Which is why I believe trigger warnings are necessary. Trigger warnings take no time to put at the top of a post. They let anyone with a potential trigger know that they might want to avoid reading the article, but they don’t prevent anyone from reading them. Whether you experience a trigger or not, you can read posts with trigger warnings. You are in no way inconvenienced. So, if no one is inconvenienced by adding a trigger warning, and no one is inconvenienced by seeing a trigger warning, but someone could actually be harmed by the lack of a trigger warning, isn’t it best to add a trigger warning?

There is an issue with certain people being triggered by the trigger warning, but it seems to me that the trigger would be worse if they were to read the article. It has been suggested that “soft” trigger warnings could be used which go more along the lines of “Trigger Warning: r-word” instead of “Trigger Warning: rape.” I’m not sure how helpful those with triggers will find that, but, so long as people with triggers are requesting trigger warnings, I think it is only fair to add them when necessary.

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23 responses to “Let’s Talk About Trigger Warnings

  • dontaskformyname

    My only real issue with trigger warnings is that, if you’re very easily triggered, the warning itself can be uncomfortable. And if you’re as morbidly curious and angry as me, it can be hard to avoid looking at something with “trigger warning” in front of it, even if you know it will be hard to take.

    Like

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  • walterliisberg

    the problem I have with people saying the “R” word or “N” word is they are making me say it instead in my head. We still know what the word is so you might as well put it, or say nothing

    Like

  • saraharnetty

    Great post. I use ‘Trigger Warnings’ on some of my posts on my asexuality blog mostly (Asexuality in A Sexual world), not often, but when I think it’s appropriate. Simple reason is because I want my blog to be open to everybody and as a result, I don’t want my readers to feel distressed or traumatised (again) because of something I have wrote. I think it’s just a way to be considerate to potential readers. That’s just what I think. Yes, they probably shouldn’t be overused, like with most things I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  • IdealisticRebel

    You wrote a very good post and I understand triggers. I have some. You have the right to name them and you have the right to keep them to yourself. Hugs, Barbara

    Like

  • feminats

    Trigger warnings are an interesting topic for me, as I understand their importance and necessity, yet still hesitate in using them. When I was in my situation, my roommate would put his arm around my neck, so naturally I would struggle to say the words “I can’t breathe” A couple of months ago, this became the slogan of the Eric Garner protesters, and I literally could not escape from those words and the fear they brought back. I had to get over the panic and emotions they brought back because I didn’t have a choice. I know its a bit selfish to think this way, and I know that not everyone can do what I did, but there comes a point when avoiding a trigger completely becomes unrealistic. Discussions about heavy topics are necessary, and sometimes it becomes impossible to ignore them. I don’t necessarily think we shouldn’t use trigger warnings, and I do understand that some people are more seriously affected than others, but the question of when the line is crossed to being overly sensitive is an interesting one.

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  • entropy

    I don’t know when I should put a trigger warning above my posts…

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    • mindfulaide

      If your post is about any of the following subjects, there should be a warning: rape, pedophilia/child abuse, domestic violence, self-harm behaviour (eating disorders, weight, cutting, suicide), drug use, corpses, KIDNAPPING (big one for me that people forget)

      Liked by 1 person

  • enbystitches

    I use a lot more trigger warnings than are probably necessary on my personal twitter. But they are so important to those of us that need the warning that something may cause us problems. Knowing what you are getting into is a huge bonus! Thank you for writing on this.

    Like

  • mindfulaide

    This is a fantastic piece of writing, and I fully agree. I have chronic PTSD from multiple severe traumatic events throughout my life. I am no longer in crisis, which is great, and I no longer have some of my worse symptoms, also great, but trigger warnings are invaluable to me: they help me decide whether I am strong enough for the related content instead of being shocked by it on a day I’m unable to handle the thoughts/memories.

    Like

  • ziosattic

    i pain between am I being a pussy or avoiding my triggers. It is tough. Good read

    Like

  • alycemcq

    Well said. I’m not sure how I feel about soft trigger warnings, they might not me clear enough.

    Like

  • awhendry

    I’ve got mixed feelings about trigger warnings. Mostly it comes down to the mis-use of the term ‘trigger’ and the unnecessary use of a warning.

    Triggers, from my understanding, are certain situations/factors/sensations that can cause a survivor of a traumatic events/series of events to relive the associated events. Things like loud bangs causing war veterans to flash back to events in war, certain scents or colours that cause a survivor to recall times of abuse. These can, obviously, be extremely traumatic events.
    I have recently however seen the word trigger used more and more to mean “Made me think of something unpleasant” rather than the gut wrenching shock of actually being triggered. This seems to be symptomatic of a trend online towards what some refer to dismissively as being a ‘special snowflake’. It is frustrating to say the least as this misuse has made a joke of what could have been a useful tool in online discussion.

    Also, I’ve never heard of anyone being triggered by text. A psychological trigger is more than that and is rooted in deep psychological connections between the event/s and the stimulus. Reading about something can, of course, make someone remember a horrible event but it doesn’t make them relive it like a trigger does.

    The overuse of trigger warning has also been something that has reduced the term to a joke. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen well meaning friends put “TW: Sexual abuse” on an article headlined “Horrific case of child sex abuse in town”. And I know they mean well but it is rather insulting to think that a survivor has lost the ability to read due to their experiences.

    It’s a shame as, like, I said, trigger warning could have been a useful part of the online debate but their overuse and misuse has made them a joke.

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    • paidiske

      I have been triggered by text – not often, and not under any of the common topics people tend to put trigger warnings on, because my trauma was unusual and complex, but it can happen. Certain phrases which were part of my abuse, for example, if I read them can be a trigger.

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    • Lane

      I agree that the main problem with trigger warnings is their misuse, specifically when somebody decides that trigger warning means “if I don’t like it for any reason, it should have a trigger warning on it.” For example I’ve heard somebody say anything with meat in it should have a trigger warning for vegans, which… no. That’s not what it’s for, vegans aren’t psychologically traumatized by meat, they just don’t eat it for any one of a variety of reasons.

      But of course, that in turn gets complicated when somebody does have a very specific or unusual trigger. Anything could potentially be a genuine trigger out there for someone. My personal rule is to post a trigger warning for anything that references a common source of trauma, plus any specific phobias for people who I know personally and who follow me (or at least that’s my goal. I’m still working on the execution part).

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      • hessianwithteeth

        That is a really good plan Lane. I feel that is the best we can do and the most effective use of trigger warnings. Put warnings on, Extreme violence (including sexual violence), sexual harassment (particularly the scary stuff like men following women spewing abuse and the like, rather then cat calling and unwanted stares), explicit disscusions of abortion, and issues surrounding the fallout around LGBT issues, like the truly horrid thing people can and do say to trans people.

        After that is just best to tailor it to your audience. If they’re thick skinned and both you and they want to tackle the tough issues all the time. Tag the warning on you main site, and up top so people know what your about.
        On the other hand if your audience has particular known triggers then make sure to include those, amongst the general ones.

        But ya as a rule if your going to be explicit about violence, harassment, and abortion then in my opinion it’s best to put up a warning on that post.

        Like

  • vonleonhardt2

    I didn’t even know what a trigger warning was. Thank you.

    Like

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