#AtoZChallenge Day 20: Trigger Warnings

T is for Trigger Warnings


Lately, I’ve been seeing “trigger warnings” for virtually everything.

Trigger Warning: mentions of abuse

#triggerwarning: character death

tw // food

That last one was a legitimate tweet I saw.

I understand warning readers about disturbing images. Rape, self-harm, and anything else explicit should have some kind of warning, even if it’s at least “mature content.”

But sometimes it just gets to be excessive. When we have to warn people about “mentions of” anything, we are assuming that the audience is so fragile that seeing a single word will trigger a panic episode. Monitoring for that should not be the responsibility of the person posting. If someone is in that fragile of a state, they need more help than a friendly internet person typing “tw.”

I find this especially frustration when it comes to posting fictional writing online. Giving a story a maturity rating is legitimate and necessary, but I have a problem as a writer when the trigger warnings end up turning into spoilers. I have a story I’m in the process of writing that involves a character death, but I don’t want to give that away right after the title. For the sake of the story, some things need to remain a mystery or at least be given the opportunity to slowly develop while taking the reader along for the ride. How am I supposed to do that when common courtesy is starting to involve spoiling all of the secrets up front?

I understand that some people have real illnesses that make reading and watching difficult and triggering, but this is the internet. You never know what you’re going to come across. Rather than creating trigger warning after trigger warning and sheltering an increasingly overprotected generation, we should be shifting the focus on symptom management. You have ___ issue? Let’s give you the resources to help you self-soothe when you are inevitably faced with your triggers.

Sidenote: I have been seeing a disturbing amount of my online peers claim to suffer from anxiety. I really hope these are symptoms that are being professionally dealt with and not simply self-diagnosed and self-medicated. That helps no one.


One thought on “#AtoZChallenge Day 20: Trigger Warnings

  1. Arlee Bird says:

    A warning of mature or violent content such as the movies provide is to me sufficient warning. I don’t like overly offensive content, but I am an adult and can handle a reasonable amount of adult content so long as it helps tell the story.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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