Saturday, May 30, 2015

Crying Wolf: Trigger Warnings and Media

Photocredit- Levi Saunders


I don't think you understand what trigger alerts (or "trigger warnings") are actually for. You can't because, if you did, you perhaps wouldn't be so glib as to use one as click-bait.

In the same way poison is marked, trigger warnings are meant to label violent or disturbing content so those who may be emotionally and mentally unsettled by said content can choose to abstain from reading it.

An example of this might be content which discusses rape or abuse with some detail, but I've seen trigger warnings for things like isolation or *cis-centered language.

Now, there is a lot of debate about when to use these warnings and if they even should be used.
Some people feel that these warnings should be reserved only for extreme content, that which is graphic in its detail and could potentially trigger someone with PTSD to relive an upsetting episode (for example, a soldier or survivor of abuse).

Personally, I have mixed feelings about this but I belong to communities whose members have specifically requested these warnings because it helps create a safe space for them (ie. a Facebook page), so I use them. When I see pieces which contain these types of content, I label them plainly so these people won't have their whole day de-railed by an intrusive or scarring memory.

I use discretion. Sometimes a post obviously needs to be marked, and sometimes it clearly doesn't. But I always think about this when scanning through the material I read and intend to repost. It doesn't require hyper-vigilance. On the contrary, it takes an extra 30 seconds of my time, but it's time spent considering my audience. This is something WGBH is usually very good at doing.

So, when considering the context of why these warnings were even introduced (in social media specifically), perhaps it becomes more clear why using a "trigger alert" in the way you have is careless at best.

I understand it was meant to be a joke. It's like saying, "Danger: Cute Cat Video", but the phrasing "Trigger Warning or "Trigger Alert" is used very specifically when there is danger and labels material which (sometimes) involves violence or rape. While, I can imagine that you didn't toss this onto your post with so little deference on purpose, that was the effect.

If trigger warnings' intended use begins to shift from of safety to one of parody, that removes a useful tool from the arsenal of those living with trauma and its effects.

It's at the beginning of your radio recording. It would be so easy to clip out "trigger alert" and maintain the coherence of what is otherwise a delightful piece (I listened to the whole thing, captivated). That's really all I'm asking for. I'm not making outrageous requests for someone to be fired, I don't want a retraction, and I don't need an apology.  But please consider fixing this out of respect for those who are skirting around their trauma constantly and who just want to enjoy your content.

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