Trigger Warnings: should these be compulsory?

Today’s post is going to be a bit of a debate. I’m going to try to give both sides of the argument as well as my opinions, but I’ll leave you to make your own judgements as there is no right or wrong answer.

So, trigger warnings on posts. Be that Tumblr, WordPress, Instagram– you name it. Should people use them more? Or less? Or should people be using them at all?

It is common now to find recovery accounts on all social media sites; one of the largest being Instagram. From positive recovery accounts to weight loss and pro-Ana accounts, there really is a wide spectrum out there.

Trigger warnings, abbreviated to TW, are often put at the beginning of posts. Recovery accounts may post something like, “TW but I skipped dinner. I feel ill but I just can’t stop. I hate this”, for example. Some people won’t put this trigger warning. The question is, is sharing with social media helping? And should everyone posting potentially harmful content have to use a trigger warning?

Now I believe in freedom of speech, and especially in recovery from a mental health condition, I think opening up about how you feel is vital to ensure your wellbeing and give you the best possible chance of recovery. But to what extent can we go before posting becomes a hindrance to both those writing the posts and those reading?

I believe that unfortunately, websites such as Instagram and Tumblr where sometimes graphic pictures and descriptions are posted are desensitising us.
It is all too common to stumble upon a photo of someone with a drip in their hand after an overdose.
It is all too common to see fresh self harm when flicking through a recovery tag.

Now this isn’t safe or healthy, for anyone.

Don’t get me wrong, social media can be a wonderful and helpful thing to all of us, including those in recovery, but there are dangers too that we need to be aware of and protect ourselves from.

Although we should all be able to share our feelings, I think we’d all be much safer in these internet communities with a safeguard filter. For example, there should be an option to block posts with TW as a hashtag, and a rule that all potentially triggering content should have this tag on it.
That way it allows freedom of speech, but also protects everyone on the Internet, perhaps most importantly the vulnerable people to these mental health conditions.

And as for people who say, “it’s my account I can post what I like”, is that a fair statement? (I am not saying yes or no, I am simply asking the question).

We are in the day and age where our deepest inner-most thoughts can be published on social media, and although we have every right to do so, shouldn’t we all have every right to be protected from seeing these things? Some people would still look, but it does allow the option not to if you are struggling. Then you will see perhaps more positive posts which would help in recovery. See what I’m getting at here?

I think that whether people post it on a private or public account, if there is any chance it might be triggering (be it the picture or the caption), put TW at the beginning of the post and/or as a hashtag. Two simple letters might save someone a lot of pain.

I rarely use my recovery instagram, as it is a tricky place to be. I only follow recovery accounts (by that I mean no pro-anorexia accounts and the suchlike), but unfortunately this doesn’t mean that I am safe from triggers. There are so many out there, from calorie counting to people posting photos of pills they are about to overdose on.

***

Lastly, I thought I’d leave you with two points; one to sum up, and one more just to finish on:
(1) Think before you post. Could this be triggering? Put a trigger warning on just in case.
Make this community safer for yourself and those around you, speak your mind but be considerate. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to put a trigger warning on their post. Obviously there is no need to be rude so make sure you ask politely.

And

(2) before getting a recovery account on any of these sites, make sure you know what you are letting yourself in for, and be careful when looking up hashtags. Your wellbeing is most important, so don’t be afraid to unfollow someone if you find them triggering.

***

I hope you enjoyed this post and it got you thinking about trigger warnings on social media.

Thanks for reading.

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One thought on “Trigger Warnings: should these be compulsory?

  1. Quite a few blogs on here use the trigger warning, which i find helpful, though sometimes I find the graphic pictures a bit too much. On the whole I I agree with much of what you say,social media gives a platform for people to post almost anything, In the depression/mental health category I would like to see something like a hash tag which gives you a heads up that some posts/pictures are quite descriptive and can make for harrowing reading.

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