((This post contains mentions of basically everything triggering))

If you spend any time on social media, you’ve probably heard of ‘trigger warnings’. Discourse aside, trigger warnings are simply warnings put on content to prevent someone from looking at something that would trigger a negative mental response, often caused by PTSD. For example, an abuse survivor would avoid content tagged with ‘abuse’. A previously suicidal person would block all mentions of ‘suicide’ on their social media feed to prevent them from relapsing. Trigger warnings are used on a wide array of content, and in real life, too, from mentions food to mentions of hate crimes. Despite trigger warnings being completely harmless and helpful to many people, they’re gathered some negative attention.

When someone is making an argument against trigger warnings, their biggest claim is ‘There are no trigger warnings in the real world!’ That may be true, but trigger warnings can actually help people adapt to the ‘real world’. In fact, trigger warning-less content can actually set people back in their recovery. Let’s use self harm as an example. A tumblr user, who use to self harm but has been clean for 7 months, is scrolling down their timeline (I say tumblr because the website allows you to hide all posts tagged with trigger warnings) and they see an image of fresh self inflicted wounds. The shock of seeing the image could easily cause them a panic attack, or even cause them to relapse. They are now back to ground zero.

That situation could have gone a different way. The tumblr user is, once again, scrolling through their timeline. This time, the post has been tagged with ‘self harm’. They see, in the place of the post, a notice that a post had been blocked. They choose to unblock the post. They are still looking at the exact same picture of self inflicted wounds, but this time without the shock. They feel in control of the situation, and are a step closer to coming to terms with their past problems.

Avoiding altogether content that is triggering is completely valid, but trigger warnings are also necessary to help build an immunity to content you can’t handle seeing. And trigger warnings are not just important online. Your precious ‘real world’ can often make accommodations for people who suffer from PTSD ect. In health education class, I felt extremely uncomfortable when watching an overly-graphic movie on mental disorders. The movie depicted awful and realistic looking self harm that came as a shock to my whole class. I can handle that kind of stuff without extreme trauma, but not everyone can. If the teacher had told students what was coming, a student could excuse themself from the classroom for the day. Instead of watching a triggering video, they could go into the hall or library and research the topic, proving they did work by writing a short paragraph or emailing the teacher a link to the article they used. There are pretty easy alternatives to forcing someone to do or see something triggering.

What is my last argument for why we should respect people’s triggers? It’s the right thing to do. It takes about five seconds to say “Hey, heads up, if you’re triggered by X, this is not the place for you to be.” Tagging a post on social media takes less time than that. You are not affected in any way by trigger warnings, but if you don’t give someone a chance to avoid a trigger, it could ruin their entire day. Realizing that some people are more sensitive to certain things than you are costs 0 dollars and 0 cents.

In conclusion: If you are intentionally opposed to trigger warnings, make jokes about being ‘triggered’, or make jokes or comments that are purposefully triggering, you are a dirt heap.

Tags:

CC BY-SA 4.0 Why Trigger Warnings Are Important by Celia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

15 Comments
  1. Louis 6 months ago

    Celia, this is a very good post! As mental illness is becoming less and less taboo, it is super important that people become well learned on how to address mental illness. Speaking to the subject of your discussion, I think that trigger warnings are not always. Speaking personally, I suffer with anxiety and depression, and I would prefer to experience things that are harder for me, so I can learn to make them less hard for me to bear. I can certainly see how people that have more severe connotations would need to shield themselves for things of certain topics (and should be able to), but it doesn’t always help people in a rough spot.

  2. Lily 6 months ago

    Hello Celia. I can’t say that I’ve ever put so much thought into trigger warnings, but I like what you have to say about them. In this technologically advanced age, it is important that we, as users, look out for one another. I agree that it is vital for social media to have warnings, as not everyone is keen to seeing alarming/violent content. However, as for “real life”, I don’t believe trigger warnings are necessarily beneficial. While one must be aware of the terms and phrases they use and the situation in which they use it, I also believe that it is the responsibility of the person fearing the trigger to decide the situation they put themselves in. Life does not offer warning signs. Life, in all of its splendors, has harsh realities. If one were constantly warned of an upcoming danger, they would cease to live their life in the moment. It is important to focus our attention where we are now, and not project potential “what ifs” into our present reality. That being said, I really did enjoy what you had to say and I agree that in social media, it is essential to have trigger warnings.
    Lily

  3. Cecilia 7 months ago

    Dear Celia,
    I 100% agree with you about the trigger warnings and how they should be everywhere cause hey that can help a lot of people that have personal problems. I too see a lot of post on social media that should have a trigger warning but do not and it’s not the best feeling ever to come across this. Honestly like you said more social medias should add a trigger warning so you can easily avoid something you don’t want to see. Also a lot of post on social media kind of make fun of people and their triggered moments and I was wondering if you had any idea is to why someone would do that or think that is funny in any way. Any who I really enjoyed reading your piece and I hope you continue to write.

  4. Siena 7 months ago

    This was a good piece because it addresses a very relevant issue that is seldom talked about. Like some other commenters, am unsure if I agree completely with your thesis but I definitely agree with you in the sense that trigger warnings should not be opposed or made fun of. However, I also see the validity in the fact that trigger warnings cannot extend to all areas of life. This was extremely well written and organized. Good work!

  5. Jeremi 8 months ago

    Celia, how do trigger warnings help people adjust to the real world. You claim that a self harmer would not relapse if there was a trigger warning, but what would he/she do if the same image came without a warning later, for example at work? If there were no trigger warnings, people would adjust to the real world because they would know what actually happens. We can’t censor everythang foreva.

  6. Samantha 8 months ago

    I enjoyed reading your post because it is something you don’t see everyday as a discussion topic. It caught my attention because I have never even heard of trigger warnings before I read your post. I like how you gave specific examples about how a trigger warning on a post could help people avoid being triggered. It also made me think about how others should be more careful about what they post, but if they post it to warn others of the content in the post. Again I really enjoyed reading your post because I learned something new today!

    • Author
      Celia 8 months ago

      Samantha,

      Thank you! I’m glad that I was able to introduce what a trigger warning is to you, because using them makes the internet a safer and more inclusive place.

      Celia

  7. Malia 8 months ago

    This is a very broad and controversial topic to write about. I agree, in some aspects, that trigger warning can be put in place to protect those who are “at risk” or “harmful”. I agree that it helps us ease into society a little slower, however I disagree that they should be in place everywhere. Life is ever changing, things ebb and flow. We can’t always expect a filter on the “bad” things that happen. I believe that it may be easier for us to progress into a slightly uncensored society when it is given to us piece by piece. Now I’m not saying that we should get completely rid of them, because they are very helpful to protect us, I just believe that it we should know what we’re getting into when using the internet. We should be aware of what’s on there and be cautious of what we look for.

    • Author
      Celia 8 months ago

      Maila,

      I agree that we cannot avoid all the things that make us uncomfortable. There is no reason, however, we should deny someone the right to avoid the things that would trigger a panic response. I agree that people should engage in civil conversations about controversial topics. The lines can be blurred between the two types of content, though. For example, I posted a poem in October about rape culture in high school. Some people would experience unhappiness from reading it, because it may not be something they want to talk about. Other people, namely rape survivors, may feel extreme fear while reading. Everyone has to understand their personal boundaries, and it is our job to respect those boundaries.

      Celia

  8. Andrew 8 months ago

    Celia,
    I believe that your thesis, so to speak, is the idea that, at least for the mental health side, it is better to allow people to know what they are about to be confronted with, so as to prevent a traumatic experience (correct me if I misunderstood). I have mixed feelings about your assertion, but for the most part agree. I agree with your statement that we should not force individuals into watching something that could cause problems. But, most importantly I agree with your stance that it is about knowing what you are about to see that matters, not the content itself. However, I don’t necessarily think it is the role of the creator to warn a potential audience about triggering content. A lot of work is incredible because of its shock value. In some cases, a trigger warning is a form of censorship. The burden is on the viewer to know if it will trigger them, not the creator. However, if it is easy and will not take away from the artwork, then I see no reason why someone wouldn’t put a trigger warning. We need to be more cautious of what we search.

    • Author
      Celia 8 months ago

      Andrew,

      As someone who visits a modern art museum frequently, I am familiar with the shock value art. I have seen rather disturbing videos and art, and the shock did help convey the artist’s message. A trigger warning could be given to the viewer without exposing what is shocking about the art. My local museum does this for the sake of children, so I was prepared to see something shocking. However, I didn’t have any idea what the art was depicting (it was animal sacrifice). It is the role of people with triggers to figure out where they can and cannot go, horror movies in theaters should’t stop for a second to warn the viewers a jump scare is coming up. People who don’t want to see jump scares shouldn’t go to a horror movie. Thank you for your comment.

      Celia

  9. Grace 8 months ago

    Celia,

    I think this is a very thoughtful post. I have never thought of some of the points that you have made. Trigger warnings are an important part of recovery and I think it is important to keep using them. While some would argue that we are too sensitive, they are an important part of helping people in their paths to recovery.

    • Author
      Celia 8 months ago

      Grace,

      Thank you for your comment! It is so, so important to understand what other people need to live the best life possible. I’m glad that you support the use of trigger warnings.

      Celia

  10. Mason 8 months ago

    Very well written. I enjoyed your post and think that you have a very good outlook on this sort of issue. I agree that the world that we live in today constantly tries to hide or mask things that could cause controversy, rather than simply just living and seeing the world for how it is. I use the example all the time of TV rating and how certain language or activity can automatically give it a negative rating or connotation. I think as Americans we need to live in a world that we can see the world as a whole instead of constantly running away from the issue. I think in the modern world people or more opinionated and more easily offended (which is some cases can be a good thing) but I think that instead of blocking out portions of the world we don’t like to simply just see what we want is going to cause major issues later on in society. Good point. Keep writing!

    • Author
      Celia 8 months ago

      Mason,

      Thank you for the comment! Although I didn’t address the political correctness side of the conversation, I agree that it is important to face controversial problems instead of sweeping them under the carpet. Even though I focused on the mental health side of trigger warnings, I might write about your point in the future. In widespread media, there is definitely a warped perception of what is offensive: people shy away from touchy topics but then make an obscene and degrading comment with no shame whatsoever.

      Celia

Leave a Reply

CONTACT US

We welcome new members. You can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Sending

Youth Voices is organized by teachers at local sites of the National Writing Project and in partnership with Educator Innovator.

CC BY-SA 4.0All work on Youth Voices is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
Missions on Youth Voices

Log in with your credentials

or    

Forgot your details?

Create Account

%d bloggers like this: