She asked for help getting rid of shame, we gave her more. May 29, 2012 12:33 PM   Subscribe

Metafilter collectively piled on to this OP so hard that she returned to update that she was actually essentially being triggered by the responses. How can we do this better and keep our own issues out of being helpful? Is there a way to "report pileon"? Should there be?

The anonymous OP in question was disappointed at her boyfriend's proposal (which was in fact pretty blah) and went to ask how she could get over feeling bad about it, and also, how she could avoid feeling shame about feeling bad. A whole mess of MeFites with baggage around marriage proposals and the wedding-industrial-complex went in to take her to task for daring to want a romantic proposal, thus effectively shaming the OP in a question about how she could feel less shame.

Awful. Really godawful. But as far as I know, there's really no way to kind of avoid this. There's no way to report a pileon, and very few individual responses were really beyond the pale.

So what do we do? I think this is honestly a black mark on AskMe, that this request for help went so completely backwards. Thoughts?
posted by corb to Etiquette/Policy at 12:33 PM (266 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Metafilter's collective baggage concerning marriage proposals, expensive jewelry and the wedding-industrial complex is piled high as a mountain; has been for years. Hard to imagine what could change that. At least people were good with their answers, on the whole.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:39 PM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


There's no way to report a pileon, and very few individual responses were really beyond the pale.

You can email us and say "There's a pileon" and we can leave a note. You can flag specific comments which we'll delete if we think they're too over the line into JudgeMe or you can politely mention something like that in the AskMe thread in question. If you want my opinion, there seemed to be as many people getting shirty about the perceived pile-on as there were people who were telling the OP they were maybe being overly sensitive about this.

The OP ended her question with "If so, please give me the figurative slap in the face that I need, and if not, please share any advice for putting it behind me and focusing on the important things." People doing what the OP requested does not step over the line as far as AskMe is concerned, though I know it's not often pleasant for other people to read. And I personally would prefer people did not do that "Tell me if I'm being an asshole here" sort of thing because other people react strongly to comments like "Yes you were being an asshole" even if it's what the OP requested.

So again, I understand that this is a fraught area, but I think people were taking the OP at her word, that she actually wanted to know if she was being overly sensitive. Not maybe what other people wanted to read, but all we have about people is what they tell us. Triggering is your word, not the OPs and as much as we want people to be decent to each other, this is not a delineated "safe space" and people have to be mindful of their own triggers which it seems like the OP was and that's totally okay.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:40 PM on May 29, 2012 [38 favorites]


I noticed this part of the original question:

Am I the only jerk in the world who feels let down by their proposal? If so, please give me the figurative slap in the face that I need...
posted by ftm at 12:40 PM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thanks to excellent advice here, we're going to have a leisurely dinner next week to share our feelings about getting married and building a future together.

That... doesn't seem like a black mark, exactly. There is a little tough love in those responses, but it sounds like even the Anonymous Asker realized that it was necessary. Can you specifically note the answers that were "beyond the pale"?
posted by Rock Steady at 12:42 PM on May 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


Reads like a fine thread with fine answer with a mostly grateful follow-up.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:48 PM on May 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


Sounds like the OP's doing just fine. What follow-up did you read?
posted by phunniemee at 12:52 PM on May 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


i'm sorry she got triggered, but it seemed like maybe she was already on trigger road before she ever posted. i sympathize with that. sometimes when i'm feeling off or shame-filled i go out and seek a trigger so i can have the full response instead of sitting in limbo with it. it does seem like the triggering was useful, as it made her face up and actually fully communicate with her fiance and go into that talk with a better idea of how he might be feeling.
posted by nadawi at 12:52 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tangential: have the mods given consideration to making the contact form link more apparent? The small, stunted, anemic and narcoleptic shoulder angel who occasionally mumbles at me about being more charitable suggests that a lot of people never even realize it's down there in the bottom corner. Perhaps make it part of the very "keep discussions on point/everyone needs a hug/answer the question or for pete's take a walk or something" verbiage under the post field?
posted by Drastic at 12:52 PM on May 29, 2012 [16 favorites]


From the linked follow-up from the OP ...

The bottom line is that we're both extremely happy and excited to be engaged, and are looking forward to planning a nice wedding. Thanks to excellent advice here, we're going to have a leisurely dinner next week to share our feelings about getting married and building a future together. It's an extension, rather than a do-over, and it works for us.

Question asked, and resolved to the user's satisfaction. This seems like an excellent result to me.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 12:57 PM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Am I the only one who's sick of 'triggers'?
posted by Mister_A at 12:58 PM on May 29, 2012 [140 favorites]


The OP ended her question with "If so, please give me the figurative slap in the face that I need, and if not, please share any advice for putting it behind me and focusing on the important things."

So, as someone noted above, that came with "Am I the only jerk in the world who feels let down by their proposal?" So I, perhaps incorrectly, would have read that as "Other people who have been proposed to, chime in with their experiences and feel free to let me know what they think."

I think my initial feeling of "whoa pileon" came from, among others, the 50-favorited response of "It's incredibly unfair of you to put that on him," the "I am glad for his sake he wasn't rejected for not sufficiently conforming to media-driven stereotypes," "He didn't do anything wrong; you'd just built up expectations that an angagement must be made in some over-the-top fashion --- not everything has to be announced with fireworks via the Jumbotron in the middle of the Super Bowl!"


The OP did follow up that everything was fine, but I wonder how much of that was also to forestall the posts which were actually causing her distress, as noted by her,


I haven't had time to read through all of the replies, but it was getting pretty rough in here so I thought I would step in and say something. I come from a really messed up family and had an emotionally insecure childhood. I've done a lot of work to get past that, but I still have some residual emotional neediness, and then shame for feeling needy. Some of the comments here were tapping into that feeling of shame, and I had to stop reading.

posted by corb at 1:00 PM on May 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


While feeling bad about how the OP might have been triggered by responses in the question thread, I'm pretty sure that the problem with this post is, actually, the way the question is framed. I find that's most often the case when it comes to anything which doesn't elicit responses which fall within the desired area.

The posting itself contains much explanation of what transpired and her emotional reaction to it, and kind of has this tiny, not clearly visible paragraph at the end which shows the edges of the circle which define the answers she's looking for.

The whole thing might have worked better if nothing about the posting were changed, but all the individual questions in the last paragraph were separated into their own single paragraph lines.

Or, the whole thing might have gone better if the question itself were a bit shorter and she then described a lot of she includes as the body of her post as clarifying answers in the discussion thread.

I'm not meaning to do a "blame the OP" kind of comment here. Just observing that sometimes, it truly is the framing which gets in the way of actual productive discussion, and that as such needs to be kept in mind when putting together a post to the Blue or the Green or even the Grey.
posted by hippybear at 1:01 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing I think was captured well in the thread, and from both men's and women's perspectives, was how the man's nerves often significantly effected the proposal, from acting weird to messing up timing or not saying what he'd planned to say. That happened to me when I proposed; I completely jumped the gun and it went nothing like I'd been planning in my head (thankfully, she said yes anyway).

Another positive thing was showing how frequently people spin humdrum proposals into something more romantic. The collective effect of which probably makes more proposals seem disappointing, when they fail to live up to the romanticized versions people have heard, than might otherwise be warranted.
posted by 6550 at 1:04 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think each response should be evaluated on its own merits and not whether it is part of some larger wave of "pileon."

I also don't understand in what way "our own issues" interfered with providing the OP with useful answers.

It is certainly ok to feel empathy for the OP, though. But I thought that thread was a good example of AskMe doing what AskMe is designed to do.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:05 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think my initial feeling of "whoa pileon" came from, among others, the 50-favorited response

Having turned off favorites, I had no idea this happened and thus didn't feel a pileon. Food for thought?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:05 PM on May 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


Am I the only one who's sick of 'triggers'?

Considering that "trigger" is commonly used as to convey the idea "something that prompts a PTSD-like episode of intrusive memory and intense psychological distress", I'd guess that people who have to watch out for being triggered are even sicker of triggers than you are.
posted by Lexica at 1:05 PM on May 29, 2012 [89 favorites]


I'd guess that people who have to watch out for being triggered are even sicker of triggers than you are.

They might also find themselves sick of every little thing that bothers us or makes us feel ashamed being referred to as a "trigger".
posted by ftm at 1:09 PM on May 29, 2012 [82 favorites]


she was actually essentially being triggered by the responses.

What does this mean in this instance? Triggers are a pretty specific psychological phenomenon. They are not the same as being reminded of things one does not like. When the term becomes too general it stifles regular conversation because the phrase carries with it, in common usage, the idea that we should respect the severe psychological responses to otherwise ordinary exchanges, and should modify our behavior accordingly. In the case of a severe response, this seems justified. In lesser cases it seems like a word used to make people stop talking about something you don't want them to talk about.
posted by OmieWise at 1:12 PM on May 29, 2012 [118 favorites]


Wow, I got three paragraphs into the question and felt such empathy for this girl that I didn't dare read any of MeFi's responses. I shudder to think what kind of treatment she encountered.
posted by spicynuts at 1:13 PM on May 29, 2012


Am I the only one who's sick of 'triggers'?

I'm not sick of it exactly, but it seemed a little trivial to use it here when I'm more familiar with it being used to refer to acutely traumatic experiences like rape or being in a combat zone. But then I also think "curator" should only be used to describe people who work in museums and that ship sailed a few years ago.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:14 PM on May 29, 2012 [18 favorites]


she was actually essentially being triggered by the responses.

I'm kinda concerned that the phrasing of "triggered," a relatively newly-recognized phenomenon, is jumping past its intended usage. "Triggered" is becoming the new "codependent," in that it's a word that's getting overused and used to mean something other than the original meaning, and therefore starts to mean nothing.

"Triggered" means something a thousand hundred million times more powerful than "upset" or what the OP actually said, "tapping into that feeling of shame." And I think that was sensed here, when it was phrased here with two adverbs and the passive-voice ("actually essentially being").

If everyone's going to get "triggered," then no one is, and the people really being triggered, God help them, aren't getting the respect they deserve.

Take my rant with a grain of salt, if you must. Look, I didn't really understand what getting triggered really meant until recently, and I was probably a jackass about it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:15 PM on May 29, 2012 [29 favorites]


They might also find themselves sick of every little thing that bothers us or makes us feel ashamed being referred to as a "trigger".

To make this less hypothetical, I have PTSD, and the reason I used that word is because the OP's description of being unable to read further because it was provoking feelings of shame that connected directly with past emotional abuse sounded exactly like a trigger to me.

Having turned off favorites, I had no idea this happened and thus didn't feel a pileon. Food for thought?


Yeah, definitely, I'm not sure how it could be implemented, though. But I know for me it seemed like fifty people were chiming in with what I considered definitely a very JudgeMe response. Looking back over it, if it had only been a few comments, it might not have seemed so intense.
posted by corb at 1:15 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


ftm: "They might also find themselves sick of every little thing that bothers us or makes us feel ashamed being referred to as a "trigger"."

Is that what is happening here?

OmieWise: " In the case of a severe response, this seems justified. In lesser cases it seems like a word used to make people stop talking about something you don't want them to talk about."

Is that what is happening here?

If either of you are accusing the anonymous OP of something specific, please say so outright rather than engaging in passive aggressive bullshit.
posted by zarq at 1:15 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I agree with corb's concern about a pile-on. Jessamyn, I apologize for noting those concerns in-thread, and next time will be sure to contact the mods directly instead.

While many of the responses were kind and helpful, it's worth noting that when the OP came back she said that she found some of the replies to her question to be "not-so-kind". What bothered me here was that it seemed like this was what it was categorized as--a human relations question. It seemed like she was asking whether her disappointed feelings about the hands-off way her fiance was approaching their engagement were reasonable (but maybe that's just me spouting the kind of underinformed overanalysis that I complained about in the thread--ha!).

What she got mixed in with all the good relationship advice was a large number of self-righteous comments about how she bought in too much to The Man's Wedding Industrial Complex, and how it was her fault for expecting too much. It was harsh and frankly really grating, and as mentioned, it sounds like the OP did not find some of the advice given to be kind. Do I think the thread ultimately did its job in terms of answering her question? Probably so, since she came back and shared her happy update. Were people out of line and off-topic in terms of castigating her for wanting a romantic proposal from her fiance? I think so. Different people have different needs and inclinations for things like weddings and it doesn't seem like taking someone to task for those differences in the context of emotional/relationship advice is helpful or productive.

Regarding the pile-on phenomenon and the tendency of people to reach beyond the question to freely judge the person and recriminate asking based on the limited information provided, I will say that I once asked an anonymous AskMe about how to handle a very difficult, very painful family topic. Several posters in particular made swooping, judgmental assumptions about me and my potential personal flaws in the context of the situation that were wildly inaccurate and that were really unrelated to answering my question in a supportive or useful way. It was such a bad experience that I am hesitant to ever ask another question about a difficult human relations question. I think this kind of "let me pass judgment on you in your time of need, vulnerable anonymous stranger" approach to answers really diminishes the usefulness of AskMe.

Anyway, sorry for the novel. Just my ten cents.
posted by anonnymoose at 1:18 PM on May 29, 2012 [16 favorites]


I would also like the "report pile-on" function.
posted by latkes at 1:19 PM on May 29, 2012


If either of you are accusing the anonymous OP of something specific, please say so outright rather than engaging in passive aggressive bullshit.

The OP of the AskMe did not use the word, the OP of this MeTa did in order to argue that we should modify our behavior in AskMe. The rhetorical force of this MeTa is significantly reduced if we remove the language of psychological victimization from the presentation. Please try and keep up if you're going to engage in dismissive bullshit.
posted by OmieWise at 1:20 PM on May 29, 2012 [17 favorites]


"Triggered" means something a thousand hundred million times more powerful than "upset" or what the OP actually said, "tapping into that feeling of shame." And I think that was sensed here, when it was phrased here with two adverbs and the passive-voice ("actually essentially being").


I think that a lot of people do not have a very good understanding of what the word "triggered" means, but I do not think that I am one of them. Triggered can mean anything along the spectrum from "I actually had flashbacks because of what happened, thankyouverymuch" to "The feelings of my past trauma were reproduced because of this situation or statement." Yes, sometimes it can mean something intensely worse than "tapping into that feeling of shame," but it does not always. Shame and guilt are two significantly intense facets of post-traumatic stress, which I assume is what you are referencing here, and they are some of the ones that have the most difficult time resolving.

Which are what I think is relevant to the OP of the original question.

The rhetorical force of this MeTa is significantly reduced if we remove the language of psychological victimization from the presentation.

What precisely do you mean by "psychological victimization" here?
posted by corb at 1:26 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I dunno, zarq, I do think that the OP might be trivializing the use of "trigger" here.

Reminding me of a shitty thing that I once did in a relationship will make me uncomfortable, but it's a very different level of discomfort than I would get from being shown 9/11 videos (or that time one of my classmates thought it would be funny to show me my friend's autopsy photos).

The best explanation I can think of is that the OP is lucky enough to have gone through life without acquiring any real "triggers," and naively has no frame of reference for what the term really means.

(And, tangentially, as far as that OP goes, I can genuinely say that I pretty much couldn't relate to anything in it.)
posted by schmod at 1:29 PM on May 29, 2012


it might be a difference of opinion, but i read it like corb read it - her wording in the follow up seems pretty on point as someone describing that they were being triggered due to past abuse.

now, i disagree with corb that it's instantly a bad thing or that there was a pileon or that the responses were out of line - but this person was abused as a child, was already having feelings of shame, and then she had a reaction to tough love responses that made her step away. that's more than just "oh, that's unpleasant."

i get triggered by vanilla perfume. i don't think strippers and 13 year olds the world over should stop wearing it, but i will straight freak out if i'm in close quarters with it for too long, especially if i'm already on trigger road. for those of us with easily triggered PTSD learning when to say "i need to step away now" is one of our biggest survival skills post-trauma. i don't see any reason to belittle that. the "is this really a trigger" argument reminds me of "well, was it rape-rape?" like there's an external barometer of trauma that everyone has to agree with before we can start using terms.
posted by nadawi at 1:31 PM on May 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


What precisely do you mean by "psychological victimization" here?

I mean that when you remove the language that makes it seem like the OP of the Ask was having a severe psychological reaction brought about by the actions of the answerers of her question, your MeTa boils down to "I would like us to handle these things differently." Since the OP asked for what she got, and appears happy with the outcome, the your request ends up being pretty banal. I think it's a fine one to make, and a fine thing to talk about, and I tend to agree, in actuality, but I don't think that it's a psychological crisis for anyone involved.
posted by OmieWise at 1:31 PM on May 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


OmieWise: " The OP of the AskMe did not use the word, the OP of this MeTa did in order to argue that we should modify our behavior in AskMe. The rhetorical force of this MeTa is significantly reduced if we remove the language of psychological victimization from the presentation.

You are arguing against corb's description in generalities without directly addressing what the OP actually said in the thread. If you were interested in countering his description, that requires an assessment of both her own words, as well as his. Not simply one or the other.

I have specific trauma triggers that are different from the OP's. I've also dealt with PTSD through therapy for much of my adult life. The language the OP used in her comment seemed like a rather clear description of trauma being recalled by an abuse survivor to me. As it apparently did to corb

if you're going to engage in dismissive bullshit."

I was not being dismissive. I was asking you to be clearer about what you meant, or to stop attacking the original OP in generalities. If you have a problem with the term being used in this case, it behooves you to address how it is being used in this specific case.
posted by zarq at 1:33 PM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


stop attacking the original OP in generalities.

What the fuck are you talking about? I didn't, and haven't, attacked the original OP (of the AskMe). I didn't attack corb either, I asked what they were talking about, pointing out that they appeared to be using a specific psychological term in a way not warranted by the original AskMe. I think we can disagree about that without you misrepresenting what I said and accusing me of being passive aggressive.
posted by OmieWise at 1:44 PM on May 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


the "is this really a trigger" argument reminds me of "well, was it rape-rape?" like there's an external barometer of trauma that everyone has to agree with before we can start using terms.

Yeah. I used the word "trigger" because it looked like a trigger to me, boy howdy. And I think that "well, was it rape-rape?" type of argument may also be why I'm just not comfortable with "Well, the OP asked for it" being used as a defense. The OP asked for a reality check. I imagine that the OP also assumed that if it happened, said reality check would take place in line with the normal standards of Metafilter, which include respectful discourse and thoughtful responses.

Regarding the pile-on phenomenon and the tendency of people to reach beyond the question to freely judge the person and recriminate asking based on the limited information provided, I will say that I once asked an anonymous AskMe about how to handle a very difficult, very painful family topic. Several posters in particular made swooping, judgmental assumptions about me and my potential personal flaws in the context of the situation that were wildly inaccurate and that were really unrelated to answering my question in a supportive or useful way. It was such a bad experience that I am hesitant to ever ask another question about a difficult human relations question. I think this kind of "let me pass judgment on you in your time of need, vulnerable anonymous stranger" approach to answers really diminishes the usefulness of AskMe.

Yes. I also have had a similar experience, though it hasn't completely turned me off. I asked a serious question, and people mocked me for having the concern. I think people are definitely way crueler in anonymous threads than they are in threads where the OP is identified. But I think it also has to do with specific subjects where people have really strongly held beliefs. I almost wish there were a way to flag commentary as agenda-driven, rather than helpful.
posted by corb at 1:54 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


the mods see all the flags - flag it as anything you want and they'll see it. if i feel that a ask.me response is overly fighty or axe-grindy i'll flag it as "noise" or "other" - if it's really over the line, the mods will notice and remove it/drop a note in the thread. if it's not and i'm just being sensitive, then it's a nice reminder that not everyone views the world like do. use your flags, even if you think the "reason" doesn't fit. i find FIAMO therapeutic. it's like "give it up to god" except sometimes there's actually external action that fixes things. it's awesome.

i don't think saying "there was some tough love in there, but the OP specifically said that was within the bounds" is the same as "they asked for it" (and all the victim blaming that statement generally refers to). i don't think what i've seen in the thread or what you've specifically reposted here is outside of the bounds of respectful discourse and thoughtful responses. i do think it's helpful to point out that her fiance might have also been having emotional fears/responses that tainted the proposal and it seems like that specific sort of advice actually helped them have the conversation she's been trying to have since it happened.

so, yeah, she seemed to be triggered but i don't think that means people in the thread did anything wrong.
posted by nadawi at 2:03 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Can we all just agree that we should be judicious in our use of the term "trigger" (and it's related constructs) in order to avoid weakening its power and making it less useful, and then leave it at that? Everybody who cares about its use in the posting of this thread probably has their own opinion about its proper use, and putting it under a microscope just means we'll end up picking apart the AskMe poster's experience and trying to assess exactly how badly traumatized she was and whether or not she was justified feeling that way. Doing that seems both not-very-productive and also sort of icky and tasteless.

Can we just agree to try and use the word carefully, and get on with our lives?
posted by Scientist at 2:07 PM on May 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


I thought the answers were great, and did not get any sense that even the ones that are isolated here as "pile on" were half as harsh as the OP expected she deserved in the framing of her question. Her own self-criticism was much worse, and I suspect coloured her reading of the allegedly harsh responses.
posted by girlpublisher at 2:16 PM on May 29, 2012 [13 favorites]


Gawd, that's not a pile-on. It's a question that has two equally valid camps, and there's a healthy amount of civil, intelligent opinions being dropped from both sides. Some people were a little bit much, but just because someone's in an emotional state doesn't mean that people who aren't comforting should have to bite their tongue when they want to answer a question in Ask.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:16 PM on May 29, 2012 [13 favorites]


I'm in the "not a pile-on" camp. Most of those answers were just fine.

As for the word "trigger", somebody go into the booth and check with the showrunner and see what he thinks about it, I'll go with his decision.
posted by HuronBob at 2:25 PM on May 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


"the people really being triggered aren't getting the respect they deserve"

What exactly is this respect that they "deserve" from an open community? To my knowledge, 'trigger' still has a generic meaning and has not been co-opted by any one special interest.
posted by Ardiril at 2:29 PM on May 29, 2012


That wasn't in any way a pile-on, sorry.
posted by empath at 2:44 PM on May 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


OmieWise: " I mean that when you remove the language that makes it seem like the OP of the Ask was having a severe psychological reaction brought about by the actions of the answerers of her question, your MeTa boils down to "I would like us to handle these things differently."

It boils down to that whether language is removed from the post or not. And I'm really not seeing any reason why we should be removing that description from this post.

The description she gave seems to clearly fit both the definition of a trigger given by Lexica upthread, and three mefites (including me) have now also spoken up here to say her words fit what they have personally experienced, to varying degrees.

You're saying that you don't believe she should be described as triggered. Okay. So again I ask, why? So far as I can tell, all you've done is assumed it shouldn't, and characterized the phrase as the "language of psychological victimization."

I asked what they were talking about, pointing out that they appeared to be using a specific psychological term in a way not warranted by the original AskMe.

Okay, how is it not warranted, please? If you feel the term's not being used appropriately here, then I don't see what the problem is with my asking you to say why.

I think we can disagree about that without you misrepresenting what I said and accusing me of being passive aggressive.

I don't think I've misrepresented you. Nor do I feel I've wrongly said you're engaging in passive aggressive behavior. You're making a lot of assumptions about the OP that I think dismiss what the OP herself described about her feelings and emotional state, with no clear evidence to support your argument. And no, I didn't accuse you of attacking corb, either.
posted by zarq at 2:45 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is yet another problem that could have been avoided with that script that automatically marks my answer as best and closes the thread.
posted by michaelh at 2:50 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think that the engagement of the question and the response were just fine. Sometimes life makes us feel a little bit uncomfortable, and really, that's okay. It does a disservice to everyone socially to insist otherwise. I think we should always be kind to each other when we can be; but feeling uncomfortable (or saying something uncomfortable) is not always indicative that something went wrong, either.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:53 PM on May 29, 2012 [16 favorites]


Regardless of terminology or whatever people want to argue about it for no good reason, if an anonymous question asker is legitimately triggered by responses to the question they asked, I do not see how that is a solvable problem.
posted by smackfu at 2:55 PM on May 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


I mean, it seems like people are responding to this part: "I come from a really messed up family and had an emotionally insecure childhood. I've done a lot of work to get past that, but I still have some residual emotional neediness, and then shame for feeling needy." But that wasn't in the question that people were answering, was it?
posted by smackfu at 2:57 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seconding what Scientist said.

The OP of this MeTa read the follow-up and started this thread while coming from a place of concern and kindness, in my opinion. That they chose to use the word 'triggered' to represent the feelings expressed in the first section of the follow-up suggests that they took this seriously, and wanted to express a legitimate concern over the treatment of someone they thought was being triggered.

Speaking as someone who has to avoid their own triggers, and has to deal with the Earth Is Shitting On You Personally feeling that comes as a result of failing at same, that usage is fuckin' reassuring. Overusage may make things trivial, but this particular usage seemed anything but trivial. So let's do what Scientist said (I always want to type Scientiest, like you are the most science-y of all the scientists) and move on.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:00 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I mean, it seems like people are responding to this part: "I come from a really messed up family and had an emotionally insecure childhood. I've done a lot of work to get past that, but I still have some residual emotional neediness, and then shame for feeling needy." But that wasn't in the question that people were answering, was it?

And I agree with you, and ask further, but so what if it was? Should people not be frank with the OP in answering the question?
posted by MoonOrb at 3:00 PM on May 29, 2012


I read the question when posted and ducked out because my response was the less kind sort. But when I saw this meta I went back and read the replies and I don't see a pile-on. I see a wide spectrum of opinions, which is what one should expect in a community this large? I'm sorry the OP of the Ask felt bad, but I don't think any of those replies are overly problematic given the wording of the question.
posted by Glinn at 3:02 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The OP asked for a reality check

The OP asked to be slapped in the face, which is pretty clearly asking for a strongly-worded, no bullshit style of reality check. Then the OP came back in to tell us that she didn't want quite so strongly-worded a reality check. Which is fine. But the information about past trauma and needing a certain style of reply was not in the original question at all, so it's pretty unreasonable to chastise people for giving her what she specifically asked for. If everybody had continued with the tough love after seeing her update, then we could talk about a pile-on. But as it stands, this seems like a pretty clear case of people answering the question as asked.
posted by Ragged Richard at 3:03 PM on May 29, 2012 [30 favorites]


zarq, I'm sorry, but I still have no idea what you're talking about. I objected to corb's use of the term "trigger." I don't feel it's justified by the brief description of bad feelings described by the OP, nor by her subsequent reaction to the situation. I'm not sure how to be more specific than that, but neither has anyone who suggests that "triggered" is an apt description been more specific. I get that you disagree with me, I'm not sure why you keep accusing me of attacking someone (at this point I'm confused about who, since I've said nothing directly about the OP of the original question, just about corb's interpretation of her statements). I'm further not sure why you think corb's interpretation is necessarily better than mine, other than because you agree with corb, and you two share a history of trauma. This is not a situation where someone said they were being triggered and I suggested that they were not. This is a situation where a third party suggested that someone was being triggered, and I asked them to justify that specific description since it does not ring true to me.

I'll be frank: I think your personal position on this is causing you to misread what I said, since I have yet to read a comment from you that acknowledges who said what to whom in a way that makes sense. If you want to discuss this with me further, you can feel free to MeMail me.
posted by OmieWise at 3:04 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I dunno, zarq, I do think that the OP might be trivializing the use of "trigger" here.

Reminding me of a shitty thing that I once did in a relationship will make me uncomfortable, but it's a very different level of discomfort than I would get from being shown 9/11 videos (or that time one of my classmates thought it would be funny to show me my friend's autopsy photos).


This is a common misconception about PTSD. PTSD is not limited to those who've experienced one-time, violent, disturbing traumas like the 9/11 incidents, or being exposed to a loved one's autopsy photos.

People who were exposed to protracted abuse, including low-level "subtle" abuse in a family setting, develop PTSD as well -- Complex PTSD in particular. This condition comes with triggers.

Please don't dismiss the suffering of others as somehow not rising to your personally experienced "level of discomfort".
posted by quivering_fantods at 3:06 PM on May 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


Having turned off favorites, I had no idea this happened and thus didn't feel a pileon. Food for thought?


Yeah, definitely, I'm not sure how it could be implemented, though.


This is a setting you can change in your own preferences. I highly recommend it.

You're making a lot of assumptions about the OP that I think dismiss what the OP herself described about her feelings and emotional state, with no clear evidence to support your argument. And no, I didn't accuse you of attacking corb, either.



I'm slightly confused by this comment: the original asker of the AskMe to which corb is referring said nothing about being "triggered". corb is putting words into the mouth of the Anonymous when they characterize that other person's response as such . Even if the responses in a thread were to trigger me in some way, it's not correct nor accurate to say that's how anyone else who might be disturbed felt. It's just as much an assumption to say Anonymous was "triggered" when what they have said is that it brought up some feelings of shame. That's not at all to lessen the impact of that statement, BTW. It's that intense feelings of shame are not synonymous with trigger, even if one begets the other in certain people.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:06 PM on May 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


Am I the only one who thinks that Askme is farmville for harvesting favourites?
posted by Elmore at 3:11 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who's sick of 'triggers'?
posted by Mister_A at 8:58 PM on May 29


No you are not. I thought I was. Seems to be the currently fashionable way to say "Waah, this makes me cry." God, I hate people.
posted by Decani at 3:11 PM on May 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


What I mean is, that while Ask provides probabl the best online answer service, it seems that it now has Power Answerers. Can we just answer questions for the sake of answering them and not for getting more favourites? Could favourites be removed from Ask?
posted by Elmore at 3:13 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, Decani. That's my cue to remove this thread from Recent Activity.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:15 PM on May 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


Favorites is my way marking what I feel are the best answers for my own set of circumstances.
posted by Ardiril at 3:15 PM on May 29, 2012


Yeah, definitely, I'm not sure how it could be implemented, though.

Sroll to the top of the page. See your username? Click on that link, it takes you to your profile. Next your name on your profile page, you'll see a link that says "edit your profile". Click that.

In the first section, directly above the thumbnails of the site (one in blue, the other in white), you'll see the drop down menu for "Comment Favorites Style"

There are three options:

Hide Favorites completely hides favorites. You will not see the favorite count on any comment or post, so you'll have no idea if the comment or post has been favorited.

Show "has favorites" will show you the verbiage "Has Favorites" if the comment or post has favorites. You can click on that post to see exactly how many favorites are there.

Show Favorites Counts will show you the exact number of favorites any comment or post has.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:16 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Elmore, a similar discussion happened on MeTa just a few days ago.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:17 PM on May 29, 2012


Thanks MoonOrb, I missed that.
posted by Elmore at 3:19 PM on May 29, 2012


Seems to be the currently fashionable way to say "Waah, this makes me cry." God, I hate people.

I suspect human relations questions, and MeTas involving them, are perhaps arenas that an avowed misanthrope would do best to avoid.
posted by quivering_fantods at 3:20 PM on May 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


Decani intoned:
"No you are not. I thought I was. Seems to be the currently fashionable way to say "Waah, this makes me cry." God, I hate people."

I hate people, too, Decani.

I hate people who create the hideous situations that prompt complex, destructive, costly, humiliating, misunderstood psychological/physiological reactions for people who generally want nothing more than to just navigate another day without ever again experiencing those reactions.

Perhaps we can come together in our spectrum of hate, Decani, and formulate an approach that will be more palatable to all.
posted by batmonkey at 3:28 PM on May 29, 2012 [17 favorites]


The implication here is that the word 'trigger' has itself become a triggering stimulus for a specific interest group. That is *that* group's problem, not MeFi's.
posted by Ardiril at 3:30 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some people who've experienced trauma use "trigger" to describe a stimulus that that brings back a truly horrific emotional response that no decent human wants to inflict on them.

Some manipulative whiners use "trigger" to describe any harsh words directed their way, no matter how trivial or well-deserved.

Neither statement invalidates the other. We should give our fellow community members the benefit of the doubt, both that they are not just whiners if they say they are triggered, and that they don't mean to castigate those who are actually suffering if they complain that it is overused.
posted by tyllwin at 3:53 PM on May 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Some manipulative whiners use "trigger" to describe any harsh words directed their way, no matter how trivial or well-deserved.

This is very triggering to me. Could you please tone it down a bit?
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:07 PM on May 29, 2012


Wow, I do not see that as a "pile on so hard" thread in any way, shape or form unless a lot of replies were removed. There was a tremendous amount of support, humor and a variety of perspectives. In fact, so many people were identifying with the OP that when you said "trigger" I thought maybe the thread reinforced her bad feelings enough that she was having second thoughts about the marriage.

I've often been a critic of the "please be gentle" phrase that first time posters sometimes use, but I am now thinking it may need to be resurrected if that is considered a bruising thread. If people have a particularly raw nerve about something, they need to raise that flag straight on rather than invite a figurative slap in the face.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:12 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


We should give our fellow community members everyone but Golden Eternity the benefit of the doubt.

How's that?
posted by tyllwin at 4:12 PM on May 29, 2012


I think that the engagement of the question and the response were just fine. Sometimes life makes us feel a little bit uncomfortable, and really, that's okay. It does a disservice to everyone socially to insist otherwise. I think we should always be kind to each other when we can be; but feeling uncomfortable (or saying something uncomfortable) is not always indicative that something went wrong, either.

I would like to favorite this a hundred times. I honestly think that a significant part of developing good coping mechanisms in general as an adult is coming to grips with the fact that just because something's difficult or painful doesn't necessarily mean anything is wrong.
posted by scody at 4:14 PM on May 29, 2012 [47 favorites]


God, I hate people.

If you had to put Best Buy and people on a love-hate spectrum, how close would they be to each other?
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:15 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Depends on how good the sale is at Best Buy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:26 PM on May 29, 2012


How can we do this better and keep our own issues out of being helpful?

Its because of our own issues that we are helpful.
posted by NoraCharles at 4:28 PM on May 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Add me as 101, scody.

In addition, the "uncomfortable" feeling of shame or guilt can be useful in realizing what your doing is wrong. Assuming that you're in control of the behavior causing the feelings, they can be a pretty good impetus to change.
posted by waxlight at 4:35 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is everyone supposed to lie and give fake advice?
posted by KogeLiz at 4:41 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, just curtail expression on the off chance that it may offend somebody.
posted by Ardiril at 4:43 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know what's a trigger?

Roy Rogers' horse.
posted by jonmc at 4:46 PM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


There's healthy remorse, and then there's shame, which is a different animal.

Healthy remorse guides me to not make the same mistake twice, or to appropriate regret the harm I've caused others or myself.

Shame is often a tool of control used by abusers to keep their victims compliant, silent, and stuck. Some people have a strong shame reaction when in fact the situation has nothing to do with their own behavior in that situation (see: incest survivors).
posted by quivering_fantods at 4:48 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


scody: "I would like to favorite this a hundred times. I honestly think that a significant part of developing good coping mechanisms in general as an adult is coming to grips with the fact that just because something's difficult or painful doesn't necessarily mean anything is wrong."

While I do certainly agree with you here, I'm not sure how comfortable I am with this being used as a justification for being an asshole, which a lot of people were in that thread.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:49 PM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I do sometimes see the pattern on AskMe that goes something like this:

Q: I keep doing X. I don't want to do X. How do I stop doing X?

A: You should stop doing X for all of these reasons ...



Since they are asking the question, I think it's rare that the only problem the OP has is a lack of motivation.
posted by RobotHero at 4:55 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess my issue is -- and it has been said by others -- that I don't see one example of an asshole in that thread. I found people to be, though direct, not assholes at all -- not even by Metafilter-standards (which are much higher than asshole-standard elsewhere)

Maybe it was trimmed a bunch before I got to it (but I think I read it before the update), so I don't know. But re-reading it again, I just don't see the assholes on display.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:58 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


P.S. My mom was so taken aback by my dad's proposal that she ran from the restaurant table to the bathroom to puke and then outside to get some fresh air...





before giving him an answer.






They'll have been married 39 years next week.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:59 PM on May 29, 2012 [16 favorites]


Is everyone supposed to lie and give fake advice?

No, but I don't think it's going to kill anyone to make their advice one order of magnitude kinder than they think it really needs to be. I've never regretted not being mean enough.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:03 PM on May 29, 2012 [16 favorites]


I'm interested in this 'trigger' idea, because it has gained great currency here recently, it seems. Possibly elsewhere as well -- I don't know about that. I wonder why and how it has entered the lexicon of everyday speech. (It may just be me noticing it more, but I don't think that is the case.)

I think about its use in the context of the years-long debate here (and elsewhere, of course) about the balance between our responsibility for our reactions to what other people say, and the reasonable expectation we should have about other people making good faith efforts not to give offense.

It interests me very much in a linguistics and (online) sociology kinda way.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:06 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


What is the standard for an asshole answer?
posted by MoonOrb at 5:11 PM on May 29, 2012


Tigger?
posted by ericb at 5:15 PM on May 29, 2012


While I do certainly agree with you here, I'm not sure how comfortable I am with this being used as a justification for being an asshole, which a lot of people were in that thread.

I agree that I don't think anyone needs to be an asshole and I certainly don't think I was using this as some sort of justification of being an asshole, which I guess was implicit in the fact that the segment I quoted also included the observation, "I think we should always be kind to each other when we can be." Sometimes the line between being frank but kind and being an asshole can be fuzzy, I guess, and I would always encourage people to err on the side of "frank but kind" when possible.
posted by scody at 5:26 PM on May 29, 2012


Wow, I do not see that as a "pile on so hard" thread in any way, shape or form unless a lot of replies were removed.

We deleted two answers from that thread early on. Both of which were what I would call "asshole answers" one of which was "I wonder what your wedding is going to look like if you're already this high maintenance" and the other was "I feel sorry for your husband" The only other answer we removed was corb's which was a variant on this MeTa and not at all okay for the AskMe thread.

People being lulzy in this thread: please stop. If MeTa is not available as a remedy for people who are having issues with the way things happen on the site, everything becomes that much more difficult. Teasing people who come to the thread with issues they want to discuss removes MetaTalk as a genuine option for people. The concept of triggers doesn't have to be part of your working lexicon for you to be mindful that making fun of the concept and people explaining their issues is tone deaf at best and assholish at worst.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:28 PM on May 29, 2012 [25 favorites]


> I think this is honestly a black mark on AskMe, that this request for help went so completely backwards.

Wow, I'm really shocked that someone could interpret this AskMe in that way. I don't see a pileon and I don't see a single answer that could be considered beyond the pale.

Yeah, the OP was upset, but I don't think anyone who answered that thread did a bad thing or was out of line.
posted by OsoMeaty at 5:37 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would probably call answers of this ilk out of line:

You watched too many Disney movies as a kid and too many chick flicks since. If the way he proposed bothers you, you have unrealistic expectations from life. It is not always like the movies, it happens with a toilet flushing in the background.

Even if there's a good point in there, belittling the OP in AskMe answers is not cool in my opinion.
posted by anonnymoose at 5:47 PM on May 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


In general, the current version of the thread looks fine to me, but as far as this deleted comment:

"I feel sorry for your husband"

It's really disappointing how often this kind of ugliness pops up in relationship questions.
posted by grouse at 5:50 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow yeah what is wrong with whoever posted the "answer" anonnymoose just quoted? You can absolutely think that it's true that "life isn't like the movies," and still express that with some empathy. 100% out of line.
posted by kavasa at 5:52 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure my response was one of those being criticised. Honestly, when you say 'Am I the only jerk in the world who feels let down by their proposal? If so, please give me the figurative slap in the face that I need', you should expect people to speak plainly in response (without crossing over to nasty, as the two deleted comments we've heard about here did). I don't believe any of the answers in that thread as it stands do anything more than answer the question exactly as it was asked, plainly but without any unkindness.

There's certainly a fine line between bringing your own baggage to a situation and bringing your own experiences to a situation too, a line that is as fuzzy as the line between frank but kind and being an arsehole. There's some obligation on the reader in a text-based environment to assume good faith unless evidence points elsewhere and that's, I think, what a large part of the problem is here.
posted by dg at 6:04 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


One thing I learnt from my one anonymous relationship ask question a few years back was to never ask an anonymous relationship ask question. Not what I was looking for when asking the question, but hey, I learnt something!
posted by Admira at 6:04 PM on May 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


I really don't think the line between frank-but-kind and asshole is all that fuzzy. It simply takes a little extra work to choose words that convey the info without sneaking in an unnecessary dig.

The Disney/chick flick editorializing in that one comment was an unnecessary dig (and assumes all sorts of facts not in evidence, e.g. what movies the OP actually watches).
posted by quivering_fantods at 6:20 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just reread most of that thread, and I'm just not seeing the assholishness and meanness that some people have described. Almost every answer was empathetic, and there were a wide range of perspectives presented.

I'm interested in this 'trigger' idea, because it has gained great currency here recently, it seems. Possibly elsewhere as well -- I don't know about that. I wonder why and how it has entered the lexicon of everyday speech.

I have also been noticing its use here a lot more over the last year or so, though I'm not sure how much of that is a true increase and how much is me simply noticing it more. In a lot of the cases, I think it is mostly just imprecise and vague shorthand, and communication would work better using clearer language. Instead of "warning, this video contains triggers," "warning, this video contains graphic depictions of violence" actually says something informative.
posted by Forktine at 6:33 PM on May 29, 2012 [12 favorites]


Am I the only one who's sick of 'triggers'?
posted by Mister_A at 8:58 PM on May 29

No you are not. I thought I was. Seems to be the currently fashionable way to say "Waah, this makes me cry." God, I hate people.
posted by Decani


What I value about Decani is that he sometimes says things I was half-thinking of saying, and then I get to see them in on-screen (in grey + white) and realize I really should soften things up a touch, be kinder. And yet, there is a truth to the ole paradox that sometimes you gotta be cruel to be kind. And here's the thing, some of us are way better at it than others, less worried about coming across as insensitive, and thus more able of delivering the cold hard goods. Which, speaking from my own experience, is sometimes EXACTLY how I need to get the truth. Un-blunted, sharp as knife, because that's the only way it's going to penetrate my thickness.
posted by philip-random at 6:36 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


there is a truth to the ole paradox that sometimes you gotta be cruel to be kind

Sometimes you have to deliver news that causes pain, true; but cruelty is always optional. Cruelty implies sadism -- a mindful and willful infliction of pain.

I'm really trying to think of a scenario where cruelty is a necessary component of doing good by others, and I'm failing to come up with any.
posted by quivering_fantods at 6:43 PM on May 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


On the one hand, I didn't see anything really egregious in that thread. Even the deleted comments, while insensitive, weren't that bad.

On the other hand, I've personally adopted a policy that if I absolutely cannot empathize with the person I don't respond to their question even if I have an answer. I have found for myself that if I think someone's problem is trivial or ridiculous then I won't respond as sympathetically as perhaps should be the case in the spirit of AskMe. The less I empathize with the asker the more carefully I consider responding at all, to prevent myself from being mean to someone who is looking for help. Tough love really doesn't work all that well on the Internet, and it's outside the parameter of what AskMe is for. Additionally, no one takes advice they don't want to hear anyway. That means that being harsh is a waste of my time.
posted by winna at 6:44 PM on May 29, 2012 [23 favorites]


The two deleted answers were obviously out of line. Apart from that I'm just not seeing an assholish pile-on. Particularly given the OP asked for some tough love. So I vote this callout off the island.
posted by Justinian at 6:45 PM on May 29, 2012


I'm really trying to think of a scenario where cruelty is a necessary component of doing good by others, and I'm failing to come up with any.

I guess the issue is, who's calling it cruel? Someone looks me in the eye and says, "Man, you're talking way too much tonight and not letting anyone else get a word in." I might feel that as cruel but he might have delivered it as a favor.
posted by philip-random at 6:47 PM on May 29, 2012


"Don't suggest I'm being emotionally needy, it reminds me of childhood abuse" cuts out quite a broad range of potential responses to the OP's question -- what is there to say other than "I totally get it and that was a crap proposal" or "you're being a little demanding here"? I guess there's always "no one's right; just talk it out," but that puts a burden on the fiance to do something to make her feel better about it, when, well, what if you think she was being a little demanding and should just find her peace with things as they are, without making her fiance feel bad about how he did things? (I didn't answer the question.)

It just seems like that's a level of fragility that suggests not asking a group of strangers, however kind they may try to be, about your relationships.
posted by palliser at 6:49 PM on May 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


I think the "Disney movie" answer is the perfect case study for this thread. Here is that post in its entirety:

You watched too many Disney movies as a kid and too many chick flicks since. If the way he proposed bothers you, you have unrealistic expectations from life. It is not always like the movies, it happens with a toilet flushing in the background.

*V* After reading update *V*

Having read the update, you two obviously have good lines of communications, though, and that bodes well for your future together. I can see why you wanted a dramatic proposal, if you never developed a sense of what is "normal" that you are comfortable with after coming from a messed up family and had an emotionally insecure childhood."

Normal is what you make it. Normal is what you and your partner are comfortable with. The world is increasingly diverse, and if it works for you and your sweetie, it is normal; don't worry about expectation imposed by society. It looks like you and your partner are well along the way to establishing your own norms. Good look on a long and happy marriage.

One last thought: The flushing toilet thing again.... it communicates to me there is a high level of familiarity between the two of you. That's a good thing.


They way it's broken into before/after update segments says volumes to me. Before the update, that poster was answering someone who asked for a "figurative slap in the face" if needed; after the update, the poster was answering someone who explained that the answers she received upset her, and gave some context about why (as well as provided additional information).
posted by MoonOrb at 6:54 PM on May 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is a common misconception about PTSD. PTSD is not limited to those who've experienced one-time, violent, disturbing traumas like the 9/11 incidents, or being exposed to a loved one's autopsy photos.

People who were exposed to protracted abuse, including low-level "subtle" abuse in a family setting, develop PTSD as well -- Complex PTSD in particular. This condition comes with triggers.

Please don't dismiss the suffering of others as somehow not rising to your personally experienced "level of discomfort".


Quivering_Fantods beat me to it- this is pretty much exactly what I wanted to address. Not only do people who suffer long-term emotionally stressful/ abusive situations (particularly as children, but happens to adults too) develop PSTD, it can actually be much more severe and resistant to treatment than people who experience a one-off traumatic event. If I understand it correctly, I think the new DSM-V coming out next year is going to address this and the guidelines for PTSD are going to change to reflect this new understanding.

As far as the word trigger goes, yes, it's unfortunate that some people don't understand exactly what it means and use it incorrectly. But it's absolutely a real thing, and it's awful. So maybe when it comes to that word, give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe what somebody is talking about in some cases is not a "real" trigger, but in that case I doubt they are trying to be purposely misleading, they just don't know the difference. They're lucky that they don't know.

So the word 'trigger' pops up a lot around here. Maybe that's not a coincidence- it probably reflects the fact that some things are incredibly difficult to talk about in person/ with people you know in real life/ verbalize at all, so questions end up getting asked in an anonymous community that's based on writing your feelings instead of speaking them (which makes a huge difference to some people.) Have some compassion. Being able to say something honest and perhaps hard to swallow can still be done in an understanding and tactful way. Maybe think of it as a challenge, an exercise in being a decent person. If you read something from someone who is "emotionally needy" and feel nothing but contempt, maybe YOU'RE the one projecting some sort of baggage onto them.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 6:56 PM on May 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sroll to the top of the page. See your username? Click on that link, it takes you to your profile. Next your name on your profile page, you'll see a link that says "edit your profile". Click that.

Thanks for everyone trying to be helpful here; I meant, I am not sure how we can remove the impact of pile-on favorites from OPs viewing answers .

There's certainly a fine line between bringing your own baggage to a situation and bringing your own experiences to a situation too, a line that is as fuzzy as the line between frank but kind and being an arsehole. There's some obligation on the reader in a text-based environment to assume good faith unless evidence points elsewhere and that's, I think, what a large part of the problem is here.

Definitely. I think that the problem I had with some of the responses to this situation actually could have been fixed by winna's suggestion. It seemed like a lot of people not only had no empathy with the OP, but also may actively have had prejudices against the OP's perspective. Yours was one of these, which is why I called it out, but there were a couple others there.

Some people had "frank but kind" answers around "I think maybe you're being a bit harsh to him, blah blah he may have blah blah." But there was a specific subset that seemed to be very focused on "The Man What Makes You Get White Wedding Blindness." And that's what struck me as more baggage than experience.

In terms of the reader having a need to assume good faith, wouldn't that also apply to the OP? Having a need to assume that hey, maybe this is a decent person who may have some concerns, rather than "Hey, this is a spoiled princess."
posted by corb at 7:00 PM on May 29, 2012


OP to fiance about engagement: "... that I didn't need some big, public display."

What the OP didn't say to fiance when speaking about engagement: "But I was still expecting and was excited about a romantic moment."

OP to AskMe: "If so, please give me the figurative slap in the face that I need, and if not, please share any advice for putting it behind me and focusing on the important things."

What the OP didn't say to AskMe when asking the question: "I come from a really messed up family and had an emotionally insecure childhood. I've done a lot of work to get past that, but I still have some residual emotional neediness, and then shame for feeling needy. Some of the comments here were tapping into that feeling of shame, and I had to stop reading."

I guess the lesson to take from this question is to just say what you really want. Nobody is a mind-reader, so they're going to go by what you tell them. If you ask somebody to keep an event low-key (and they care about you) they're going to keep it low-key. If you know that you're predisposed toward feeling shameful when people say you're feeling too needy - don't ask an anonymous relationship question online and tell people not to hold back.

But no, that wasn't a pile-on. The responses were actually pretty supportive. But I do think the original OP could use a hug.
posted by ladygypsy at 7:06 PM on May 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm somewhat gobsmacked at the white-knight syndrome here.

Let me ask, would your response have been different if the question stayed exactly the same, but the OP's followup was:

"Thanks guys! You're right, I probably was getting caught up in what the traditional engagement expectation is supposed to be. After reading all these stories, I did realize that the important thing is that I have the opportunity to marry the person I love. We talked about it and are going to have our own special celebration. Some of what you said smarted, but when I considered it I realized that yeah, you did have a good point there."

If your reaction would have been different had that been the response - and honestly, without question this MeTa would never have been posted if that were the case - then I don't understand how you can take the responders to task. The OP asked for straight-up advice, even to metaphorical "slap in the face" level, along with stories and ways to think about this to make it feel better to herself. That's what she got. Until she posted that this brought up past shame for her, there was simply no way to know that there was any special degree of sensitivity here. Absolutely no way at all, nohow. It was not available to be discerned.

So I'm not even sure what's being asked for here. Is the idea that we should never offer a critical response - even when one is being asked for explicitly by the OP? Are we being asked to read minds, and only post extremely gentle and supportive responses if we can somehow intuit past neglect or abuse? I'm not that good at reading between the lines, and none of us are. I think people were pretty much nice, considering the profound shittiness that actually IS the "wedding-industrial complex," and the degree of bullshit we all do imbibe around it and eventually, if we're lucky, spit back up and move on with our real, human lives. Many people took personal risks in their responses, were honest and open about the sometimes unromantic, all-too-real facts of their relationships and their supposedly romantic moments. Sharing alone was an effort to be kind, to relate, to shore up the confidence, to support the boyfriend's cause, and to show that real life isn't all it's cracked up to be. That's a message that the OP seems to have been receptive to. This sounds like it's been an overall positive.

Ask has some bad moments. This really wasn't one of them, and, short of clairvoyance, I simply cannot understand what we were supposed to have done differently, and how we would have known it was time to do that.
posted by Miko at 7:11 PM on May 29, 2012 [44 favorites]


Well, what you call 'prejudices against the OP's perspective' I call 'a different perspective'. Maybe it's because I'm male and therefore clueless about why the method that a proposal is delivered in seems to be at least as important as the fact that someone wants to commit their whole life to you.

Regardless, I was asked for frank advice and I gave it. I do have empathy for the asker, because who hasn't built up expectations around something that hasn't eventuated in the way they hoped? I certainly have. I don't have prejudices against the asker's perspective, but I do believe that her (we assume) expectations were unrealistic. Yes, I've had direct personal experience with the other side of this situation and that can't help but colour how I feel about this particular expectation, but it doesn't change the fact that, while I empathise with the asker in having something meaningful not go as planned, the outcome isn't what needed to be re-calibrated, the expectations did.
posted by dg at 7:21 PM on May 29, 2012


I've seen a Metafilter pile-on. That is NOT a pile-on.
posted by Kloryne at 7:23 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you read something from someone who is "emotionally needy" and feel nothing but contempt, maybe YOU'RE the one projecting some sort of baggage onto them.

Did you really get "nothing but contempt" from a response there? I'm surprised, I thought they were all substantive, and many tried especially hard to express to the OP what the fiance's perspective might be, which is empathetic, too, just more specifically toward a person who happened not to be present.
posted by palliser at 7:26 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


yeah... I really don't see that much wrong with the AskMe responses. I'm glad the two responses that where deleted where deleted, I had flagged them in thread at the time. It wasn't kid gloves, but it wasn't bare knuckles either, and for an anonymous online question of this type I think it went well.

We can not go into a situation assuming someone will have a bad reaction to mild criticisms, especially if that is not made clear at the outset, nor will someone get the best advice if all criticisms are off the board.
posted by edgeways at 7:31 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


pile-on favorites

Ah, well, those are just as likely to be pile-on bookmarks.
posted by malocchio at 7:37 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, not a pile-on.

i'm sorry she got triggered, but it seemed like maybe she was already on trigger road before she ever posted. i sympathize with that. sometimes when i'm feeling off or shame-filled i go out and seek a trigger so i can have the full response instead of sitting in limbo with it. it does seem like the triggering was useful, as it made her face up and actually fully communicate with her fiance and go into that talk with a better idea of how he might be feeling.

I have totally done this, too. And I had an emotionally insecure childhood. Made to minimize your emotional reactions for the sake of others so that your needs are never met so that you feel resentful about it so then you seek out reprobation from a third party because you have shame you even wanted something at all and all that before you ever actually honestly communicate how you feel to the party in question. Yikes. This be the verse and all that.

OP, if you're reading: it's okay to ask for lovingkindness instead of a slap in the face, if that's what you need--either from your spouse or metafilter. You're important and you matter, but it can be hard for people to know what you want if you tell them the exact opposite.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:50 PM on May 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


Did you really get "nothing but contempt" from a response there?

To clarify- no, not really. I meant to say so in my comment above but forgot. I mostly just wanted to address (1) the usage of the word 'trigger', and (2) pile-ons in general. Because although that AskMe is what inspired this MeTa, I kinda thought Corb was more or less using it as a jumping off point to talk about pile-ons in general. Which I think is fair, because they tend to follow the same pattern most of the time. Anyway, my comment was more based on the overall nature of the bad pile-ons I've seen, not so much specific to this one. Although the deleted comments were pretty shitty IMO.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 7:51 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the only pattern that I follow is this: When I walk into a new AskMe, I read it and starting thinking about how I might respond, if I choose to.

When there are only a few answers posted, I read them and think "Ok...ok....ok...whatever dude...ok....oh THERE is a really good, helpful answer."And I favorite that one - basically the first one with a clear, fleshed-out, commonsensical, respectful, helpful answer.

That's kind of characteristic of the nature of the forum, I think. When there are, say, only seven or eight early answers, and a few are first forays, or stabs in the dark, or less than useful, or super-brief, but one is solid and helpful and experienced and on the mark, you kind of want to put a coin on that box, as it were. I suspect that's why certain responses within the first dozen get a lot of favorites. It's not quite a "pile-on;" it's the first answer that encapsulates what a lot of readers were going to say, only now they don't need to because it's been well expressed. In that way, I think they reflect a pretty broadly supported point of view.

But they're not the be-all, end-all. Sometimes you think you can add a little more with your personal perspective, or that the first/best commonsensical answer could use further fleshing out, or you disagree with a later comment and want to present another thought, etc. Then the thread starts getting long. Often once it hits a critical mass, I don't weigh in at all, because dollars to doughnuts whatever I was going to say is already sufficiently represented. In that case, I might just read, or might go through and just favorite a few more responses, again just giving a "yeah, me too" weight to certain comments that I think may, possibly, gain a little weight by a multiplicity of voices finding it notable.

I think this is materially different from a "pile-on," and in fact, I think favorites, no matter how you use them, moderate against pile-ons because they take away the incentive for you to post separate comments saying basically the same things. A lot of it is just plain timing, and earlier good comments will just plain get a lot more favorites. But to me, a "pile-on" is not one comment with 50 favorites. That's just a heavily endorsed comment. A "pile on" is 50 comments saying exactly the same thing in slightly different ways, each giving their own unique twist to the knife, and perhaps unpleasantly reveling in the ostentation of climbing aboard a big bandwagon and feeling a ton of sanction in being unpleasant while everyone else is doing so as well.

I never got that vibe in this question. Yes, lots of us were responding from our own personal experience (or, as some term it, "baggage"). But that should be OK, as long as it's not cruel in nature. I never saw the deleted comments, but of the others, I didn't think any of it was cruel in intent to the OP.
posted by Miko at 8:16 PM on May 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


I really can't fucking stand comments inserted into discussions about complex emotions that do nothing but vent about the use of the word "trigger."

Seriously, it's disgusting. Get over it.

Some manipulative whiners use "trigger" to describe any harsh words directed their way, no matter how trivial or well-deserved.

I know you were trying to help, but I'd really like to see some examples here of manipulative whiners using "trigger" to avoid/diminish/dismiss/demean "trivial" or "well-deserved" criticism.

The use of the word "trigger" is not a problem at MeFi; we generally use it appropriately and well, corb's unfortunate insertion above notwithstanding. The only problem with the word "trigger" here at MeFi is the folks who freak the fuck out every time they see it and think the rest of us need to know they can't control themselves.
posted by mediareport at 8:17 PM on May 29, 2012 [12 favorites]


Miko: "I think the only pattern that I follow is this: When I walk into a new AskMe, I read it and starting thinking about how I might respond, if I choose to. "

This is how I start, but the rest of my process is generally much simpler:
1. Has Miko commented?
2. If 'yes', move on, because she's said it better already
3. If 'no', do my best and delete at least 50% of answers before posting.
posted by dg at 8:23 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Most of the responses from people in that thread struck me as profoundly cynical and I personally felt that some of them were rather judgmental, no matter what kind of slap on the face the OP originally requested.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:28 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


One person's cynical is another's realistic, though.
posted by Miko at 8:31 PM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


If 'no', do my best

..and that means doing beautifully. You often say something no one else has said, and with a wisdom and an honesty that can be very helpful.
posted by Miko at 8:33 PM on May 29, 2012


One person's honesty is another's cynicism, though.
posted by dg at 8:38 PM on May 29, 2012


I kinda feel like the discussion of triggers is beside the point considering that the OP didn't use that word. I'm uncomfortable with putting words into her mouth and although it is great that mefites are trying to empathize with her, I think it might be going past empathy into a lot of unwarranted assumptions.

As for triggers in general, I have some, and I feel like there are some that it's just basic courtesy to warn for/avoid. There is one traumatic experience in general that is fairly common and I try to ask people politely to avoid randomly bringing that topic up (it has already been brought up in this thread, which is a bit ironic considering...).

However, more specific things are kinda up to the individual to avoid or deal with. It sucks sometimes and I have avoided metafilter at times when triggering gets to be too common so I definitely feel like it's serious and real, just sometimes more of an individual problem than a community one.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:42 PM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've personally adopted a policy that if I absolutely cannot empathize with the person I don't respond to their question even if I have an answer.

Yeah, this. When I read this Ask, my immediate reaction was "Oh, WAH, Princess." Which means I have no business answering, so I wandered off and let others tackle it.
posted by MissySedai at 8:43 PM on May 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


True, Miko, but some of the responses reeked of projection. You're not a bad person if you want a specific kind of proposal, but I think you're kind of asshole if you're telling someone they're a horrible person for wanting what they want for something as personal as getting engaged. The folks who were saying stuff like, "Hey, totally understand, wanted a big proposal too, got a dinky one, have been happily married anyway for X years, the sting will wear off" were coming from a very different place than the posts that were, as the OP noted, coming rather from a place of shaming and fool-calling. Those weren't slaps in the face -- those were kicks in the gut.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:44 PM on May 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think you're kind of asshole if you're telling someone they're a horrible person for wanting what they want for something as personal as getting engaged.

Sure, but again, I did not see people doing that. I saw a few people saying they didn't agree with her perspective and people giving her their impressions of her response, but I saw no one saying she was a horrible person even though the end of her question was basically "Am I being horrible?"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:55 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Until she posted that this brought up past shame for her, there was simply no way to know that there was any special degree of sensitivity here. Absolutely no way at all, nohow.

Really? What about the part where she says "how do I overcome the shame associated with being disappointed?" That seems to suggest that answers that further shame her are probably not what she's looking for. That said, I found very few comments that piled on in the first half of the thread. Unless it gets worse, that's not a very bad thread.
posted by salvia at 9:08 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


These Birds of a Feather: "as the OP noted, coming rather from a place of shaming and fool-calling"

Talk about projection - the OP didn't note this anywhere that I saw. Nor did anyone that I saw call anyone a fool or shame anyone.
posted by dg at 9:11 PM on May 29, 2012


Getting back to the original question here, which was- how to respond to a pile-on?

Having experienced a pile-on in an anonymous question myself, here's what helped me. A few people sent me messages saying "hey, I don't think it was quite fair for [person] to say [thing.] I understand that what you meant was [other thing.] I didn't get that impression, and you're not a bad person." In this case, it's moot because the OP didn't include a throwaway email. But in general if it's possible I think that's a much better response to a pile-on than to call it out in MeTa, which just draws more attention and drama to something that the OP probably just wishes would die already. (So, sorry for adding to that right now.) Lesson to anonymous askers: include a throwaway or use a sockpuppet account.

And I agree with a few others above, in that I pretty much only answer questions that I think I can empathize with to a pretty significant degree.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 9:20 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yikes. More projection(ists) in this/that thread than a movieplex on a holiday weekend.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:34 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Good point, GastroNemesis. I think anon posts have the unfortunate feature of creating a level of abstraction that can make empathy more difficult. I find I have to work extra hard to not treat an anonymous poster's question as something completely abstract -- it's easy for me to forget that there's a real person in the thread. My empathy may not be as front-and-center as I would like it to be if I'm not careful.
posted by quivering_fantods at 9:36 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for everyone trying to be helpful here; I meant, I am not sure how we can remove the impact of pile-on favorites from OPs viewing answers .

But why would we 1) assume that the OP feels the same way about the many-favorited comments as you, when they might think they are appropriate and helpful answers 2) assume that they see the many favorites as a "pile-on" instead of what it is: people finding something about the comment which made them favorite it 3) assume that the OP even has favorites set to view 4) assume that the OP is going to be as bothered by this situation as you seem to be? That's an awful lot of assumptions to basically come up with an image of a MetaFilter user who needs to be protected from the way the user base interacts on the site. I'm not discounting that people say jerky, hurtful things on the internet. But once you've reached the point where you are trying to protect someone on this site from seeing comments with lots of favorites that might potentially make them feel bad, you're pretty much trying to protect them from the same interactions that make AskMe useful. There's no reasonable expectation that people here can see only the comments and favorites that make them happy.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:04 PM on May 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


Also, in response to all the "she ASKED FOR a slap in the face" comments, I don't think a sentence like that negates the need to take the entire question into account. If your good friend comes over and says "I can't believe what I did at work today! It's awful! Please help me calm down. I screwed up so bad! I'm probably going to get fired! My life is ruined! Kill me now!!" I would assume the friend is asking for help calming down, not for you to kill him, either literally or figuratively.

Likewise a question like "I feel so ashamed. Help me handle this well and feel less ashamed. Maybe my feelings are reasonable. [long explanation] How can I handle this better? I feel like the biggest jerk in the world. Maybe I am!! If I am, just give me the slap in the face I deserve! If not, help me calm down and handle this better" is not reeeaaally asking to be slapped in the face.
posted by salvia at 10:11 PM on May 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Unless she has some very advanced computer interaction device attached to her web browser, I'm pretty nobody actually slapped her in the face through the internet.
posted by hippybear at 10:19 PM on May 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm a little disappointed that so many of you seem to despise the concept of "triggers" so deeply. Avoiding "triggering" someone who has stated that they are a survivor of assault or abuse is a courtesy that I always assumed Mefites would be enthusiastic about extending to their peers.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 10:28 PM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think this kind of "let me pass judgment on you in your time of need, vulnerable anonymous stranger" approach to answers really diminishes the usefulness of AskMe.

Couldn't agree more. I'm getting sick of what's deemed acceptable.
posted by ambient2 at 10:41 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Avoiding "triggering" someone who has stated that they are a survivor of assault or abuse is a courtesy that I always assumed Mefites would be enthusiastic about extending to their peers.

I totally concur! Provided they don't bury the lede (anonymously or no) some 50+ comments into their (anonymously-posed) question. I have no particular horse in the: "IZ TRIGGERING THA NEW HIPSTER!?!" sub-thread, but this MeTa (however sincerely constructed and expressed) nontheless managed to channel a host of MeFi touchy-points into a finely-honed laser of (too many hyphens!) GRAR.

All of this is to say: plums, icebox, yeah. Turns out weddings and related proposals bring out the best and blurst of this community. In that regard, it's par for the (all too human) course.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:42 PM on May 29, 2012


I'm all for being mindful of triggers, but people rushing to be sensitive on behalf of someone who doesn't seem to be suffering helps no one.

Psychoanalyzing the OP of an AskMe thread usually leads to comments that are more entertaining to the reading audience than they are actually useful to the querent.
posted by hermitosis at 10:43 PM on May 29, 2012 [13 favorites]


Thank you, hermitosis, for (among other things) using "querent" and using it well!
posted by joe lisboa at 10:46 PM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ha! I've just been doing too many tarot card readings, is all.

Having just finished reading the thread, I'm mostly impressed that everyone gave pretty straightforward advice and still managed to congratulate her on the engagement. THAT is what passes for a pile-on these days?

If someone desires protection from certain kinds of responses, all they have to do is state that in their question. The mods are great at making sure people answer the question on the Asker's (sorry, querent's) terms, as long as they fit within community standards.
posted by hermitosis at 10:52 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


jessamyn: "...but I saw no one saying she was a horrible person even though the end of her question was basically "Am I being horrible?""

Sure you did. You deleted them.
posted by zarq at 10:53 PM on May 29, 2012


Two comments isn't exactly a consensus.
posted by hermitosis at 10:55 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Didn't say it was.

Doesn't negate the fact that some people did in fact respond in a way that Jessamyn said they didn't.
posted by zarq at 11:14 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


If your reaction would have been different had that been the response - and honestly, without question this MeTa would never have been posted if that were the case - then I don't understand how you can take the responders to task.

I think that my emotional reaction to the initial negative comments that I found out of line would have been much the same, though without the additional spike of seeing that the OP had been actually too hurt to read much further. So, yes, it would never have made it into MeTa, but I think I would have still found the behavior not cool.

So I'm not even sure what's being asked for here. Is the idea that we should never offer a critical response - even when one is being asked for explicitly by the OP? Are we being asked to read minds, and only post extremely gentle and supportive responses if we can somehow intuit past neglect or abuse? I'm not that good at reading between the lines, and none of us are. I think people were pretty much nice, considering the profound shittiness that actually IS the "wedding-industrial complex," and the degree of bullshit we all do imbibe around it and eventually, if we're lucky, spit back up and move on with our real, human lives.

I think what I'm asking for is two things: first, that people sincerely try to actually help the OPs, and yes, do so with sympathy and grace. There's a difference between a critical response, and a harsh response. There's also a difference from a critical response from within someone's worldview, and a critical response from outside.

For example, you think people were nice when you view that they had to keep in mind the "wedding industrial complex." But a critique of the wedding industrial complex wasn't really what was being asked for - the OP was asking if she was wrong to be disappointed in this situation, where she clearly already had buy-in.

It seemed in some ways kind of like - let's say the OP was asking a question about, saying, buying a foreclosure house, and asking for a reality check around some guilt around taking advantage of other people's misfortune. It'd be legitimate to say something like, "I think there are some legitimate causes to feel guilty over something like that, because in fact someone had to suffer for that deal to become available." It would not be legitimate to say, "I can't believe you're buying into the capitalistic system, that's such bullshit. Do you know babies are starving because of you?"
posted by corb at 11:18 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


My sense, based on the querent's update mid-thread, was that she was perfectly capable of standing up for herself, and asking for what she needed (a little gentler tone to responses). That shows resilience, not fragility. Guts, too.
posted by quivering_fantods at 11:21 PM on May 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


OmieWise: "zarq, I'm sorry, but I still have no idea what you're talking about. I objected to corb's use of the term "trigger." I don't feel it's justified by the brief description of bad feelings described by the OP, nor by her subsequent reaction to the situation. I'm not sure how to be more specific than that, but neither has anyone who suggests that "triggered" is an apt description been more specific.

Actually, they have:

nadawi: "...sometimes when i'm feeling off or shame-filled i go out and seek a trigger so i can have the full response instead of sitting in limbo with it. it does seem like the triggering was useful, as it made her face up and actually fully communicate with her fiance and go into that talk with a better idea of how he might be feeling."

nadawi: "...this person was abused as a child, was already having feelings of shame, and then she had a reaction to tough love responses that made her step away. that's more than just "oh, that's unpleasant." "

corb: "To make this less hypothetical, I have PTSD, and the reason I used that word is because the OP's description of being unable to read further because it was provoking feelings of shame that connected directly with past emotional abuse sounded exactly like a trigger to me. "

corb: " I think that a lot of people do not have a very good understanding of what the word "triggered" means, but I do not think that I am one of them. Triggered can mean anything along the spectrum from "I actually had flashbacks because of what happened, thankyouverymuch" to "The feelings of my past trauma were reproduced because of this situation or statement." Yes, sometimes it can mean something intensely worse than "tapping into that feeling of shame," but it does not always. Shame and guilt are two significantly intense facets of post-traumatic stress, which I assume is what you are referencing here, and they are some of the ones that have the most difficult time resolving."

corb: "Yeah. I used the word "trigger" because it looked like a trigger to me, boy howdy. And I think that "well, was it rape-rape?" type of argument may also be why I'm just not comfortable with "Well, the OP asked for it" being used as a defense. The OP asked for a reality check. I imagine that the OP also assumed that if it happened, said reality check would take place in line with the normal standards of Metafilter, which include respectful discourse and thoughtful responses."

Lexica: " Considering that "trigger" is commonly used as to convey the idea "something that prompts a PTSD-like episode of intrusive memory and intense psychological distress", I'd guess that people who have to watch out for being triggered are even sicker of triggers than you are."

quivering_fantods: " This is a common misconception about PTSD. PTSD is not limited to those who've experienced one-time, violent, disturbing traumas like the 9/11 incidents, or being exposed to a loved one's autopsy photos.

People who were exposed to protracted abuse, including low-level "subtle" abuse in a family setting, develop PTSD as well -- Complex PTSD in particular. This condition comes with triggers.

Please don't dismiss the suffering of others as somehow not rising to your personally experienced "level of discomfort".
"

I gave my impressions upthread, as well.

I get that you disagree with me, I'm not sure why you keep accusing me of attacking someone (at this point I'm confused about who, since I've said nothing directly about the OP of the original question, just about corb's interpretation of her statements).

I've explained this at length. I've re-read my comments in this thread and think my meaning was clear. But I will repeat myself since you do not understand me.

You are saying the OP was not triggered by what went on in that thread. You have presented no evidence that her reaction -- shame so strong that she had to stop reading the thread, derived from childhood family issues -- was not caused by the thread. Which would be hard to do, since she literally said that's what happened.

So you're complaining that the use of the term is wrong, but you're not saying why. In doing so, you're saying she either:

a) is lying about her own reaction
or
b) her reaction doesn't fit your understanding of trauma triggers.

Since several people here who have direct experience with abuse and being triggered themselves have said that her description fits the definition of being triggered, it would seem you're settling on "A." However, if you're saying something else, an option "C," please feel free to explain.

I'm further not sure why you think corb's interpretation is necessarily better than mine, other than because you agree with corb, and you two share a history of trauma.

See above. It's not just corb's interpretation. And yes, my personal experience seems relevant here, too.

This is not a situation where someone said they were being triggered and I suggested that they were not. This is a situation where a third party suggested that someone was being triggered, and I asked them to justify that specific description since it does not ring true to me.

Again, three people who have direct personal experience with emotional trauma have now weighed in with our collective assessment. If you don't think our explanations should matter, please explain why. I would think that anyone concerned that the situation is not being described accurately would welcome the input of folks who have actually dealt with PTSD in a therapeutic setting.

I'll be frank: I think your personal position on this is causing you to misread what I said, since I have yet to read a comment from you that acknowledges who said what to whom in a way that makes sense. If you want to discuss this with me further, you can feel free to MeMail me."

I'm not really interested in taking this to memail. If you don't want to respond to this, that's fine. But I thought it would be helpful to explain myself publicly.
posted by zarq at 11:32 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're not a bad person if you want a specific kind of proposal, but I think you're kind of asshole if you're telling someone they're a horrible person for wanting what they want for something as personal as getting engaged. The folks who were saying stuff like, "Hey, totally understand, wanted a big proposal too, got a dinky one, have been happily married anyway for X years, the sting will wear off" were coming from a very different place than the posts that were, as the OP noted, coming rather from a place of shaming and fool-calling

This brings up back to square one though, where the only acceptable answers to the OP's question are:

A) Yes, your fiance really screwed up that proposal

or

B) Yes, you fiance really screwed up that proposal, but don't worry, so did mine and we got over it

Even though the question explicitly solicited responses for both sides of the fence.

No, there is nothing wrong with wanting an especially romantic, dramatic proposal, but it is self-defeating, especially if your partner doesn't have a history of making grand, romantic gestures, to want this but not give your partner any indication that this is your expectation. Answers that non-maliciously noted the contradiction between wanting a fairy tale type proposal (note: "fairly tale" not intended to indicate any negative connotations), while at the same only giving your partner the information that "I didn't need some big, public display" were fair game given how the question was asked, and frankly describing those legitimate answers as people being "assholes" or piling-on is really ungenerous.

On preview:

It would not be legitimate to say, "I can't believe you're buying into the capitalistic system, that's such bullshit. Do you know babies are starving because of you?"

And thankfully nobody said anything remotely like this in the thread.
posted by The Gooch at 11:32 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sometimes I think someone's applied a killfile here while I wasn't looking, there are so many people saying that someone said something that they clearly didn't.
posted by dg at 11:57 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not really fond of these call-outs of Ask Me threads that involve personal questions, and even less so when they are anonymous. For one thing, it draws a great deal more attention to something sensitive than most posters ever anticipate, and the whole thing becomes more freighted as people start arguing both sides of the issue... picking apart every little word in the post in the process, and often becoming a lot more aggressive and hostile in the throes of debate than they would ever be in the original thread. I feel like this is really unfair to the person who originally asked the question.

Secondly, if the poster is anonymous, it throws them into the position of being represented by someone else/other people for "their side" of the issue when they may not be feeling or thinking anything like what others may be suggesting. So then, if they happen to notice or be directed to the Metatalk thread, they are stuck with trying to ignore a bunch of people arguing about them and their question, or dropping anonymity or creating a new account just to respond, or doing the awkward respond-through-a-mod thing, and I really feel like they shouldn't be forced to deal with some angry site issue (often with attendant attacks on them, personally) as a byproduct of their post.

To me, this is the biggest flaw in the Metatalk system of handling site problems/questions. I cringe every time someone's at-all personal question is brought up here. I don't know what to do about that, but I'd urge people to maybe try discussing it with us first, or at least to try to frame the Metatalk thread to be less about a single post or poster and more about general observations.

It's difficult, because then people demand links to examples, but I'll just make a general plea to try to be aware of the spotlight that a Metatalk post throws on specific questions like this, and the likelihood that people will then begin to deconstruct the post in ways that don't normally happen in the typical life of a thread on Ask Metafilter, frequently becoming entrenched in their "side" of the argument and growing quite heated – and often criticizing the poster for all sorts of things they couldn't have anticipated along the way (nobody knows how to construct a perfect question for example; everyone struggles with how much to include, with what details, etc.) ... and they didn't even bring it up here. Ouch.

So, for people who feel they want to post concerns here, please examine whether you want to submit a specific post/poster to Metatalk's particular form of scrutiny, or if there might be a better way to approach it (perhaps by talking to us, or phrasing the problem differently). For everyone participating in these discussions, I'll just say that as much as possible please try to keep things more on the general points and make an effort to steer away from suppositions, criticisms and analyses involving the Ask poster.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:37 AM on May 30, 2012 [19 favorites]


I was emotionally traumatized by a Metatalk call out once. Consequently, I find all Metatalk call-outs trigger me.

Please stop doing it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:16 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel like one of the hard things about a site with as many users as MetaFilter is that the combined weight of many people answering can be much, much larger than the original poster anticipates. I can deal with reading three or five thoughtful but mildly negative answers, but after a certain point, even if each answer is not over the line, reading them all together can make me think "Wow, I really am a terrible person!"

The answer is obviously not to delete thoughtful but mildly negative answers, but I think it's a good thing to consider whether the OP has already been told enough times that they're wrong.
posted by Jeanne at 3:56 AM on May 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


My first question, about 8 years ago, ended up in a huge pile-on. Then I realized that I should DTMF and I did.
Any time I ask a human relations or work question I am asking for REAL advice - not sympathy. If I wanted someone to agree with me, I'd ask my Dad.
posted by KogeLiz at 4:11 AM on May 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


Instead of "warning, this video contains triggers," "warning, this video contains graphic depictions of violence" actually says something informative.

That's something that has been bothering me. How do I know what triggers someone else? Suppose I comment "that reminds me of the time we went to Disney World", and someone who reads it got raped at Disney World. Should I have said "trigger warning" first? If so, then I should preface everything I say with "trigger warning", which is absurd.

If you are concerned that the content you are posting may be difficult for some people, it's better to specify what lies ahead. I could watch video of people snorting coke all day, and it wouldn't bother me. Someone a few weeks clean from that addiction perhaps would very much need to avoid that. I'd prefer to not see depictions of gore and violent death, but it would not traumatize me; I'd just turn it off. For someone else, that might be something that would send them into PTSD attacks.
posted by thelonius at 4:18 AM on May 30, 2012


Mister_A: "Am I the only one who's sick of 'triggers'?"

So are people with mental illness, disorders and PTSD.
posted by ShawnStruck at 4:35 AM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


So you're complaining that the use of the term is wrong, but you're not saying why. In doing so, you're saying she either:

a) is lying about her own reaction


Forgive me for interjecting but the OP (of the Ask thread) has not said she was triggered so it would be impossible to call her a liar by suggesting that she was not triggered.

She may have had some emotions which people here would call being triggered but to the best of my knowledge these people aren't trained psychologists and they certainly are not the OP's psychologists so their opinion doesn't seem to be any more relevant than anybody elses.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 4:38 AM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Again, three people who have direct personal experience with emotional trauma have now weighed in with our collective assessment. If you don't think our explanations should matter, please explain why. I would think that anyone concerned that the situation is not being described accurately would welcome the input of folks who have actually dealt with PTSD in a therapeutic setting.

OmieWise is a therapist. So this comment is very, very amusing to me. Collective agreement does not make collective assessment any more or less accurate to the OPs experience.

Not everyone who experiences trauma suffers from PTSD. PTSD is a cluster of responses to trauma, not the experience of trauma itself.

I don't see why diagnosing the OP with PTSD and saying she was triggered within this context is acceptable but disagreeing with how others label the OP isn't. The fact is we don't know if the AskMe OP has PTSD because she didn't tell us. Insisting that she does have a disorder is a presumption that borders on arrogant.

As for the OPs request in this thread....my take is that AskMe is an open invitation for people to weigh in using their own experience - especially the fuzzier human relations questions. No human relations question can fully capture the texture, nuance and complexity of a relationship. The ones that try are often a terrific bore to read. As such, any interpretation of a question will hinge on someone's personal experience to some degree. Some responses do well in staying within the original post, some stray too far away from it.

Yeah, pile-ons are bad. To a post I've regretted the ones I've participated in. I don't think the AskMe responses in question rise to the level of pile-on. It's too much to ask that every response to a question take into consideration the full range of possible emotional sensitivities of a poster. Why on earth should we? It does not take much perusing of AskMe to figure out that this community sometimes challenges others' assumptions.

The mods already weed out super mean-spirited responses and they already edit threads that come down too heavy on an OP with the same hammer. Guidelines already exist, there's no need to develop more policy.
posted by space_cookie at 4:40 AM on May 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


a critique of the wedding industrial complex wasn't really what was being asked for - the OP was asking if she was wrong to be disappointed in this situation, where she clearly already had buy-in.

I'm still a bit boggled by the idea that you can't connect the two. The answers you didn't like were, in fact, answers she asked for.

If you're asking "Am I wrong to be disappointed in this situation?" One of the possible helpful answers is "Not necessarily; our culture, and an entire profit-making industry, sets us up to imagine a particular kind of experience, when really that experience is different for everyone and doesn't always live up to our ideas of how the moment will feel. Having those expectations and not clearly communicating them means that that very "buy-in" is part of what what set you up, and if you either change your expectations or you keep them as your ideal but are more clear about communicating them, you may find another way to feel than disappointed."

I agree that you seem to be hoping to declare off-limits a large swath of answers that include ones like that. It's a totally reasonable point of view, it's in line with many, many other kinds of AskMes about expectations and disappointment in relationships, it answers the question in a way that stands a chance for being helpful, and it is, in fact, the kind of head-check she is asking for, even if ultimately she rejects that perspective.

People handled it positively, on the whole, with earnestness, humor, openness, a range of ideas and suggestions, and pragmatism. The outcome was positive. I still do not see anything we can reasonably ask of people that isn't already reflected here; you seem to want to be saying that people can't respond authentically even when it's respectful and helpful, that only a certain narrow bandwidth of answers is acceptable which passes an idiosyncratic and arbitrary and rather unenforceable standard of "empathy and grace." The answerers are just as human as the askers, so if we can forgive one for their oversights and weaknesses we can forgive the other, and they did a fine job here. Insisting on a particular take on "empathy" as the only correct response form would make this site a lot less useful.
posted by Miko at 4:46 AM on May 30, 2012 [20 favorites]


Occasionally, on mefi (or meta, in this case), I come across a post or comment that makes me chomp at the bit to deliver a sharply worded reply, although I try to hold back for the sake of propriety. Fortunately, about half of the time, someone else finds a more civil way of saying what I was thinking, and that's always gratifying.

In this case, I think some of you have found a very constructive way to respond to all this talk of "triggering." Whether or not the use of the term is clinically accurate is a bit besides the point, because the OP seems to imply that this instance deserves the same kind of treatment as something like rape flashbacks. Also, while we're throwing around psychological terms, I feel that this is a genuine case of what is termed "projection," in the case of the OP. For instance:
To make this less hypothetical, I have PTSD, and the reason I used that word is because the OP's description of being unable to read further because it was provoking feelings of shame that connected directly with past emotional abuse sounded exactly like a trigger to me.
corb, just because there are similarities in your experience to this askme poster doesn't mean that the intensity or particulars are in the same neighborhood. Maybe it sounds like how you'd describe your own feelings, but that's not enough to make that call.

And I have to say that there is some massive conflation going on here, not just between different type of triggers; for instance:
Yeah. I used the word "trigger" because it looked like a trigger to me, boy howdy. And I think that "well, was it rape-rape?" type of argument may also be why I'm just not comfortable with "Well, the OP asked for it" being used as a defense.
That's just a huge stretch, corb. It's practically a Godwin violator.

As for the askme post that started this thread, I'd disagree with corb's assessment on several points. First, the poster didn't seem traumatized by the responses. It may have revived some highly unpleasant feelings, but, shit, there have been a number of times that I was deeply upset about something I read on mefi, and had to turn away.

Second, I think that if a poster is especially vulnerable, they should make this clear from the outset. I'd be willing to respect that kind of request for taking it easy. In this case, the poster seemed to be requesting a blunter type of response. In cases of extreme vulnerability, I'd frankly suggest that one avoid posting on the internet, in general. It can get pretty brutal out there, and the mods can only protect the users so much.

Finally, without retreading the original askme post, I think that the askme poster warranted a bit of a wake up call.

As a side note, I'm surprised that a community like mefi wouldn't ask the question "why didn't SHE propose?" (*) It strikes me as unusual that this question wouldn't occur to the many mefites who rail against the "patriarchy." Why is she sitting there passively waiting for him to "make all the right moves"? Personally, I'm not the least bit hostile to these kinds of traditions, but I feel that if such things are important to you, then you ought not to be so passive, no matter what your gender. And no, I'm not playing the devil's advocate just so I can accuse mefites of hypocrisy. My own feelings about sexism and gender roles are fairly nuanced and don't really line up with any of the staked-out positions.

(* If I missed any comments to that effect, then I apologize, but I didn't read every single comment. I read a lot of them, but it's possible that I missed something.)
posted by Edgewise at 5:22 AM on May 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


As a side note, I'm surprised that a community like mefi wouldn't ask the question "why didn't SHE propose?" (*)

(* If I missed any comments to that effect, then I apologize, but I didn't read every single comment. I read a lot of them, but it's possible that I missed something.)


It's in the OP: "For the record, I offered to propose back when we first started discussing it, but he insisted on doing it himself and making it a surprise."
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:31 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sure you did. You deleted them.

This may just be me being overliteral but to me neither of those comments were saying "You are horrible" as much as they were saying "This situation is bad and you're playing a role in it" They were deleteworthy and they were deleted. None of the comments that remain, to my mind, are calling the OP a bad person for feeling what they feel.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:36 AM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a side note, I'm surprised that a community like mefi wouldn't ask the question "why didn't SHE propose?"

Not only was that in the original question (as noted just above), but was touched on in some answers, such as brainmouse's: "You "offered" to propose? Why didn't you just do it? You literally discussed the fact that you were going to get engaged, how is that not, you know, being engaged?"

It was mentioned as an option because acknowledging that there are options and alternative paths is part of coming to terms with the path that one has taken, but no one made a big "you are a bad person because you didn't propose yourself!!!!" thing because it wouldn't be answering the question. Other than in the deleted comments (which I saw before they were deleted, and were indeed crappy), it was an amazingly calm and level-headed discussion of what is for many people an incredibly loaded and emotional topic.

The level of projection and assumptions in some of the comments in this MeTa thread, on the other hand, are really startling to me.
posted by Forktine at 6:03 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK, so how ashamed was she really and is she a terrible person for feeling that way or are we all terrible people for making her feel that way? Was she legitimately triggered, or just a whiner, or both? Exactly how evil is everyone here? I need answers to at least three decimal places with a 95% confidence interval. Do we need to order more microscope slides?

I'll make some coffee, we'll be up all night sorting this one out, I can tell.
posted by Scientist at 6:15 AM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


The level of projection and assumptions in some of the comments in this MeTa thread, on the other hand, are really startling to me.

Indeed. Some of you people need a ten day retreat.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:32 AM on May 30, 2012


I think you're being ironic/sarcastic now, Scientist, but I can't tell exactly what you mean, and this is really unhelpful except for upping the antagonism. It would be better if you just say what you want to say.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:36 AM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was emotionally traumatized by a Metatalk call out once. Consequently, I find all Metatalk call-outs trigger me.

Please stop doing it.
posted by PeterMcDermott


Seriously dude? That shit isn't fuckin' funny, at all. Maybe you missed Jessamyn's comment upthread:

The concept of triggers doesn't have to be part of your working lexicon for you to be mindful that making fun of the concept and people explaining their issues is tone deaf at best and assholish at worst.

And taz, I'm pretty sure Scientist is reiterating what they said upthread, albeit via allegory or whatever.

To those wondering why trigger warnings are generally made vague instead of explicitly describing the nature of them, well, just think about that for a minute and maybe it will come to you.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:41 AM on May 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sorry, I thought I was being fairly clear, but I guess not so I'll clarify: I find this kind of intense examination of the OP's shame or lack thereof and the surrounding meta-examination of whether or not we are to blame for causing it to be distasteful and petty and I thought MetaFilter was better than that.

I guess what I'm saying is that you all should be ashamed of yourselves for trying to make each other feel ashamed about shaming that woman. I'll go now and leave y'all to it. I love you all, but this thread has gotten kind of weird and gross if you ask me.
posted by Scientist at 6:47 AM on May 30, 2012 [10 favorites]

thelonius: "
Instead of "warning, this video contains triggers," "warning, this video contains graphic depictions of violence" actually says something informative.
That's something that has been bothering me. How do I know what triggers someone else? Suppose I comment "that reminds me of the time we went to Disney World", and someone who reads it got raped at Disney World. Should I have said "trigger warning" first? If so, then I should preface everything I say with "trigger warning", which is absurd.

If you are concerned that the content you are posting may be difficult for some people, it's better to specify what lies ahead. I could watch video of people snorting coke all day, and it wouldn't bother me. Someone a few weeks clean from that addiction perhaps would very much need to avoid that. I'd prefer to not see depictions of gore and violent death, but it would not traumatize me; I'd just turn it off. For someone else, that might be something that would send them into PTSD attacks.
"
Actually, I pretty commonly see "possible triggers for sexual assault," "trigger warning for gore," "if your triggers involve emotional blackmail, you might want to avoid chapter three," or things along those lines. I generally assume an unqualified trigger warning is referring to either sexual assault or child abuse.

I also don't see people complaining of a lack of warning for anything other than sexual assault, graphic violence, or child abuse. In the case of specific triggers, the closest thing I've seen tends to take the form of "being called that nickname triggers me, could you try to address me by my full name or my pseud in future conversations?" Or, I guess, as a personal example, "groups if people in a closed space can get to me after a while, even people I like - if I leave your party early seeming kind of upset it's not because you're a bad host or anyone did anything wrong, but sometimes I run up against my threshold really suddenly and have to remove myself from the situation."
posted by Karmakaze at 6:49 AM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


This comment is going to be chock full of horrible triggers, everyone. FULL O' TRIGGERS (that would be a horrible fucking bar)



That's something that has been bothering me. How do I know what triggers someone else? Suppose I comment "that reminds me of the time we went to Disney World", and someone who reads it got raped at Disney World. Should I have said "trigger warning" first? If so, then I should preface everything I say with "trigger warning", which is absurd.

There are some relatively common experiences that you can assume someone in the room has suffered from or dealt with, and then there are things that are so rare that you can easily warn for them even though they're not necessarily common.

Before I get into it, this is not an attack or criticism, by the way, so I hope it doesn't come across that way! It's hard for me to write this so I hope it gets read with a lot of good faith and leeway.

Rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse are all very common and extremely common triggers. For example, when corb brought up a common question that is asked of date rape victims (survivors?) I found it triggering. (Not trying to single out corb, I understand where they were going with it and am not mad or anything). Obviously, there are times when talking about rape and sexual abuse is normal and expected, but if it's not, then it's probably kind to either not bring it up or to warn for it so people can skip past your comment.

People really have gotten a lot better about using "rape" to talk about things that have nothing to do with it or the mods have deleted more, and it has made the site a lot easier for me to use, for which I am deeply appreciative.

Discussing suicide can also be an issue, because many people who are depressed have at one point been suicidal. Having unwanted suicidal thoughts, attempting suicide, or witnessing a suicide can all be traumatic. So it's something I personally try not to bring up unless it's absolutely necessary.

Slurs based on race, gender, sexual orientation (I'm probably missing some) are also triggering for a lot of people because it is common for people to be physically hurt, physically threatened or bullied on an ongoing basis by people who also used those words. I try not to use them and there's really no serious reason to use them in most situations. There are obvious exceptions, of course, like literature, when talking about bigotry, etc. and then warning for them would be considerate if it's not a conversation where someone would expect to see them.

Graphic violence is definitely one, although I don't have much personal experience with it, it's disturbing to a lot of people and pretty easy to warn for (given that we don't have pictures or videos on the site and they have to be linked to anyway).

_____

Those are just the ones that I think are likely to come up on Metafilter and the ones that I would personally want to see people be thoughtful about. I might have missed some.

_____

On more specialized boards I'm on, like boards specifically populated mostly by mothers/about parenting, there are other traumatic experiences that are a lot more likely to come up and be warned for (for example NICU pictures can be triggering for parents of children who had life-threatening illnesses in their early days). That's not something I'd expect people here to think or worry about. So knowing the audience and the purpose of the group/site is important.

And of course there are more idiosyncratic triggers (like your example about Disney and, I would argue, the example that started this Metatalk) and we'll never know what all of those are, but let's not let the perfect become the enemy of the good, you know? Because there are some things that are really predictably triggering and not too difficult to avoid.

Thanks for asking that question, and thanks for listening.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:02 AM on May 30, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm not offended at all - I appreciate your detailed response
posted by thelonius at 7:06 AM on May 30, 2012


If all we have to go on is what the OP said in the question and in the follow-up, then nothing risky or bad seems to have happened, and no precedent was set that seems to require greater effort from the community or mods.

corb, I'm glad we have people here looking at things from all angles and willing to stand up for people who might not be willing or able to stand up for themselves. And I'm even glad that we have people here who are patiently willing to explain the concept of triggers over and over again, despite having to start at square one in each new conversation with people who react to the idea with ignorance or derision.

But you are so far off base here -- nothing about this particular example holds up the way you need it to, and so you've basically led people off into the weeds to argue over imagined, potential damage to theoretical people. There is no clear victim here and no clear perpetrator (any truly useful call-out, if one could be said to exist, needs at least one or the other), and considering the lack of either it seems terribly out of place for you to get really defensive after sounding the bell and gathering everyone here to discuss what is basically just a weird hunch based on your personal reaction to someone else's problem.

I'm seriously about avoiding triggering people. I am cautious about the jokes I make in mixed company, and I have even printed trigger warnings in the programs of shows that I've produced. But ultimately you have to respect what people say about themselves more than what you want to say about them, and honing in on the OP's use of the word "triggered" -- as if that was not a commonly used word outside of PTSD parlance -- as evidence of real harm is pretty sloppy.

We could have probably stood to have a good community-wide conversation about this, and maybe you could have even initiated it. You've basically blown that chance for the time being by pinning everything to one (mostly) happy bride-to-be's perfectly ordinary reaction to intense (but fair and civil) criticism.
posted by hermitosis at 7:17 AM on May 30, 2012 [15 favorites]


Okay, Scientist – yes, thanks for the clarification in the first half of your last comment.

Aside from that, generally, the question about possible triggers is something that we can and will be talking about (though it would be better if people didn't start plumbing Ask Metafilter threads for evidence of this when the original poster hasn't warned about it or indicated this)... but if we were going to regulate things in a way to any avoid possible triggers for anyone we would probably have to disallow a huge number of Ask Metafilter posts and answers... so much so that we would just have to say "no human relations questions at all" – at the very, very least.

I for one am definitely interested in more communication and discussion about this in a human and practical way, but I'm also honestly confused. Are a lot of people here agreeing that answers in the referenced thread were triggering for them? Or... what are we talking about, concretely?
posted by taz (staff) at 7:34 AM on May 30, 2012


Answers that non-maliciously noted the contradiction between wanting a fairy tale type proposal (note: "fairly tale" not intended to indicate any negative connotations), while at the same only giving your partner the information that "I didn't need some big, public display" were fair game given how the question was asked, and frankly describing those legitimate answers as people being "assholes" or piling-on is really ungenerous.

Hmm. I think part of the issue may in fact be that while your use of "fairy tale" here is not intended to indicate any negative connotations, some other answers with that language did seem to be referencing negative connotations. Those answers did not seem charitable, and to me, did seem to be kind of "assholish." In terms of the pile-on feeling, upthread I noted that one of the reasons it felt like a pile-on to me was that 50 people favorited the comment I felt was one of the most cruel. I understand that not everyone uses favorites the same way, not everyone has favorites even turned on, etc. But to me, that felt like the force of the community was focused on the jerk answers, rather than the really thoughtful, helpful ones - even the thoughtful, helpful, slightly critical ones. As also noted upthread, there's really no way to fix that through anything other than careful consideration and thoughtfulness: Do I really want to add to the weight of the mean-spirited answer rather than one of the many more nuanced ones?

I'm not really fond of these call-outs of Ask Me threads that involve personal questions, and even less so when they are anonymous. For one thing, it draws a great deal more attention to something sensitive than most posters ever anticipate, and the whole thing becomes more freighted as people start arguing both sides of the issue... picking apart every little word in the post in the process, and often becoming a lot more aggressive and hostile in the throes of debate than they would ever be in the original thread. I feel like this is really unfair to the person who originally asked the question.

This is a good point, Taz. To be honest, I had not anticipated this level of reaction in MeTa, and thought there would be a lot more sympathy for the OP than there was. You make some good points about some other ways to address this. In this case, I think my frustrations around how negative this experience seemed to have been for the OP raised the specificity of this post, but it could certainly have been posted without it - and in fact, the specificity on this seems to have negated a lot of the actual initial talk about the issues.

I don't see why diagnosing the OP with PTSD and saying she was triggered within this context is acceptable but disagreeing with how others label the OP isn't. The fact is we don't know if the AskMe OP has PTSD because she didn't tell us. Insisting that she does have a disorder is a presumption that borders on arrogant.

First, I don't think anyone has diagnosed the OP with PTSD. In fact, the reason why I qualified my original statement to say "Essentially triggered" is because I don't know for certain what the OP suffers from. I do know that the OP stated that she had a strong enough negative recurring response to the negative answers that, given past context in her childhood, she had a need to step away. Thus why I used that language - because it seemed to fit.

Also, regardless of whether or not the OP suffers from anything, I still think that commentary of an assholish nature was not warranted. Yes, I think it was particularly disappointing that the combined weight of negativity was enough to negatively impact the OP, but I still think we need to work a lot harder on how we give advice to people whose perspective and life experiences we may disagree with.

If you're asking "Am I wrong to be disappointed in this situation?" One of the possible helpful answers is "Not necessarily; our culture, and an entire profit-making industry, sets us up to imagine a particular kind of experience, when really that experience is different for everyone and doesn't always live up to our ideas of how the moment will feel. Having those expectations and not clearly communicating them means that that very "buy-in" is part of what what set you up, and if you either change your expectations or you keep them as your ideal but are more clear about communicating them, you may find another way to feel than disappointed."

Yes, that would have been a great answer, and some people put that answer. That answer is not, however, some of the more negative answers that were provided. There's a severe difference in tone. The first one is pointing out the existence of the wedding industrial complex in a gentle way. The second is blaming and shaming the OP for potentially having high expectations that may be related to it.
posted by corb at 7:34 AM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


The second is blaming and shaming the OP for potentially having high expectations that may be related to it.

If someone has specifically requested responses that aren't gentle, then why should respondents be blamed and shamed for giving them, if they're able to do so civilly in ways that don't break the rules?
posted by hermitosis at 7:44 AM on May 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


First, I don't think anyone has diagnosed the OP with PTSD. In fact, the reason why I qualified my original statement to say "Essentially triggered" is because I don't know for certain what the OP suffers from.

Using this diagnostic term to describe someone else, in a non-diagnostic setting and on the basis of a single phrase, does three things:

1. It claims unearned authority about that person.
2. It demands compliance on the basis of the putative harm being diagnosed.
3. It raises the hackles of anyone else with familiarity with trauma, which is a lot of people here.

The problem is that your own experience does not give you the power to diagnose others, which is not to say that you are wrong but simply that this kind of long distance, low information diagnosis is unreliable at best. If you diagnosed everyone who said what the OP said, you'd misdiagnose more often than not.

The term has a very particular meaning and you've used it in a very general sense, which you signaled with "essentially" but have since defended. Given that you have admitted that you used this term without the relevant information and in a way that has only a family resemblance to its specific diagnostic value, I think you should consider withdrawing it.

/has triggers
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:56 AM on May 30, 2012 [19 favorites]


I'm not really fond of these call-outs of Ask Me threads that involve personal questions, and even less so when they are anonymous. ... I don't know what to do about that

One idea is that you could enact a policy against MetaTalk call-outs of anonymous questions, unless first approved via the contact form. Because anonymous questions have been rubber-stamped by a moderator ("Does this really need to be anonymous?"), it's not unreasonable that they should be afforded some slight added protection against being called-out. In fact, there is symmetry to requiring a call-out to obtain the same rubber stamp ("Is there a real policy issue here?").

Less severe, you could make a point of dropping into such call-outs earlier with a general reminder/admonition to keep the discussion on track. I realize call-out threads move fast and moderators are busy, but I'd imagine that new MetaTalk threads are high-priority alerts on the moderators' back end.
posted by cribcage at 7:56 AM on May 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Do I really want to add to the weight of the mean-spirited answer rather than one of the many more nuanced ones?

I think this mischaracterizes the heavily favorited responses and discounts the wealth of good advice in them. The most favorited answer in there also includes this: "Look, you have wants and needs and that's fine and allowed, but you can't expect him to read your mind about that. If you want something, it is your responsibility to either tell him or to make it happen. You chose to do neither." That's not assholish or cruel or meanspirited. It re-emphasizes that the OP's needs are okay and valid. Other highly favorited answers include this one and this.

Those posters responded with undeniable empathy to the OP and it's ridiculously uncharitable to read that thread as a pile on due to "tone"--especially the tone created by favoriting. It makes it feel like you're annoyed at people for not agreeing with you or communicating in what you feel is a suitably sensitive mode when the mods have already stated that they're okay with how the thread went and don't see it the same way you did.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:03 AM on May 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


taz: "I for one am definitely interested in more communication and discussion about this in a human and practical way, but I'm also honestly confused. Are a lot of people here agreeing that answers in the referenced thread were triggering for them? Or... what are we talking about, concretely?"

In reference to the actual thread, it's that the original poster's distress at some of the replies was described as "essentially being triggered." Some commentary ensued expressing either doubt that triggering is a thing or that the original poster's distress could legitimately be described that way.

So the conversation in this thread is more along the lines of, "yes, triggering is so a thing" and that the described response matched some people's experience of being triggered by other stuff.

It's not that people posting in this thread were necessarily triggered by posts in the ask thread, but that people are discussing whether/in what way is "triggering" a meaningful concept.
posted by Karmakaze at 8:05 AM on May 30, 2012


From The Awl: When "Trigger Warning" Lost All Its Meaning
posted by ChuraChura at 8:19 AM on May 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


We can try to avoid purposely freaking people out, but we can't protect people from all the normal stuff that doesn't bother most people but that freaks certain people right out. If you are particularly sensitive about a certain something, you have to develop your own defensive mechanisms and antidotes or that certain something is going to get you.
posted by pracowity at 8:25 AM on May 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm sure the Awl post will one day be just another funny story that Anonymous and her husband will tell at a dinner party.
posted by hermitosis at 8:25 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wasn't believing it at all, but apparently someone was actually raped at Disney World. Thanks, thread.
posted by hippybear at 8:30 AM on May 30, 2012


Oh, shit. Did I need to put "trigger warning" on that link?
posted by hippybear at 8:31 AM on May 30, 2012


Karmakaze, From a moderation point of view, it's really problematic that it's all tangled up in this one anonymous question. It's not originating from the OP, it's sort of hot-button as described, and to me just makes the whole triggering concept a lot more opaque.

I truly think it would be a more productive conversation on its own with some actual direction as opposed to somehow linked to this question which to me was a perfectly okay question to ask, and which got a lot of perfectly okay answers, some of which were somewhat blunt, none of which were abusive, and that pretty much altogether covered the bases that someone might be interested in considering if they had asked this question.
posted by taz (staff) at 8:32 AM on May 30, 2012


thought there would be a lot more sympathy for the OP than there was

Let's make a distinction: there's plenty of sympathy for the OP - it's in me, it's in many (most?) responses in the thread. But "sympathy for the OP" does not mean "agreement with the callout." Those are two different phenomena.

I'm at least one person that does have sympathy with someone wondering whether their life is on the right track and whether they are within normal bounds to feel as they feel or off base in their thinking because of some past stuff, but at the same time doesn't think there is anything wrong with the way things have been going in the thread, or the way things turned out. I don't agree with the callout, but I'm far from "unsympathetic."
posted by Miko at 8:41 AM on May 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


Oh, shit. Did I need to put "trigger warning" on that link?

No, it's damned clear that it links to a story talking about someone getting raped at Disney World. The whole idea behind trigger warnings is that you can let people know "Hey there is something that you might not expect behind this link that might be potentially problematic for a decent chunk of people" So like with NSFW we don't add it to links that are pretty clearly going someplace NSFWish but we'll add it to a link that unexpectedly goes somewhere that might put boobs and butts all over your screen. Same thing with links that go places that are unexpectedly blinky (bad news for people with epilepsy, totally simple to add a warning).

So for most people trigger warnings are like the young rope-rider says "Hey you might not expect this to be going to a description of child abuse/rape/graphic violence/hate speech, but it does." We have some users who add them voluntarily. We do not add them after the fact the way we do for NSFW stuff. People are aware that they read MeFi at their own risk most of the time. My feeling as a moderator is that it's good to warn people if you have a link that goes someplace unexpected that might be problematic for people, but you can just have a note or a warning, it doesn't have to be in the "Hey trigger warnings!" phrasing. In fact, things might go more smoothly if it wasn't. This is just me speaking pragmatically, not in "dream world" here.

We have no idea about the OP in this situation and so the discussion about triggers if it's going to happen should probably at this point be distinct from the OPs (unknown to us) state of mind. I think it was a little problematic to describe her response as "essentially triggered" and I think other people have discussed that adequately in this thread. AskMe is difficult for a lot of people for many different reasons. One of the things we work out in MeTa is what the normative expectations are of people's experiences there. Obviously I have a personal as well as professional opinion about this, but it's worth understanding that that is part of why we talk things out here.

And I'd like to repeat my request for the same old lulzy folks to really consider not doing that thing here. It makes it seem like you sort of hate this place and want things to go badly. Or, possibly more charitably, can't help yourself. Please try to do better?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:43 AM on May 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


"From The Awl: When "Trigger Warning" Lost All Its Meaning"

Wow, well someone didn't bother to actually read the damn thread
posted by Blasdelb at 8:47 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't read this as a pile-on at all. The OP asked for frank advice, and that's precisely what she got.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:51 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's make a distinction: there's plenty of sympathy for the OP - it's in me, it's in many (most?) responses in the thread. But "sympathy for the OP" does not mean "agreement with the callout." Those are two different phenomena.

Oh no, of /course/! I apologize if it seemed that I meant people who didn't agree with the call-out didn't have sympathy. There have been a lot of thoughtful responses in here. There have also been, as jessamyn noted, some lulzy ones, and there have also been a couple less-than-charitable ones. I hadn't really thought, before Taz pointed it out, that these were likely/possible to occur, because of course the MeTa audience is broader than the set of those hanging out on the Green reading human relations queries.
posted by corb at 9:05 AM on May 30, 2012


the MeTa audience is broader than the set of those hanging out on the Green reading human relations queries

I think it might actually be narrower, but the set of people who hang out more here definitely tend to take a more critical approach across the board and are interested in meta-issues, so yeah, discussions go differently. Thanks for recognizing that at least some of us aren't coming from a place of callous insensitivity.
posted by Miko at 9:27 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


because of course the MeTa audience is broader than the set of those hanging out on the Green reading human relations queries.

Well, I don't think it's that so much as the expectations about what's okay and not as a response to a thread is very different here than it is in the green. There's a lot of folks reading and responding to human relations questions, and a pretty broad array of perspectives and life experiences informing their responses, but there's also a really explicitly enforced expectation of utility in questions and answers that doesn't exist so much here or on the blue. Ask Metafilter is sort of the odd one out in terms of local cultural expectations about what's permissible because that's important to making it work as a question and answer place rather than a chat/argument/grabass free-for-all.

Metatalk is for folks to talk about the site, the community, policy and moderation and user behavior and cultural expectations and so on. And while we would like, as Jess has noted, for folks to try and show a little bit of self-control and not just treat random metatalk threads as opportunities to make sarcastic noises about their disapproval of the content of that thread or whatever, there's not the same expectation that user a posts a metatalk about what they want and everybody else needs to respond to that on their terms. So you're likely to see people pushing back a lot more openly and insistently on the premises of a metatalk than you would in ask where, even if there is pushback, it tends to be on the gentler and "here's what I'm wondering if you haven't considered" side of things.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:28 AM on May 30, 2012


I like cribcage's idea: One idea is that you could enact a policy against MetaTalk call-outs of anonymous questions, unless first approved via the contact form.

Anonymous questions are often of a more sensitive nature, so giving them wider exposure and dissecting them here in the rough and tumble of MetaTalk generally doesn't seem like a good idea. Not sure if/how something like that could ever be implemented tho. But I like the idea.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:43 AM on May 30, 2012


I think we'd be unlikely to try and put a firm approval mechanism in place; it seems like a lot of sort of weird exception-case stuff to do to treat in a sort of jarring fashion what is not a super common problem.

The notion of just trying to be a little more aggressive about getting out in front of the discussion in these cases seems more doable and is something I'll try to keep in mind next time one comes along. I think a gentle sort of "talk about the meta issue, don't dissect the anonymous question to the bare atoms maybe" reminder would be sufficient for most of what would actually be reasonable to ask in here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:48 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, well someone didn't bother to actually read the damn thread

I feel more sad that the Awl post was written by a member of Metafilter than I do if it were written by a stranger to the site.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 9:51 AM on May 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


Shameless is a great show.
NSFW trailer.
posted by philip-random at 10:09 AM on May 30, 2012


Since several people here who have direct experience with abuse and being triggered themselves have said that her description fits the definition of being triggered

Since my blurb on triggers was cited in the post I've excerpted, I just want to be super-duper clear that I was not diagnosing the anon. I was simply trying to clear up a misconception about triggers in general. It also sits poorly with me that it appears I was highlighted in that cite as having "direct experience with abuse" when I've said no such thing here.
posted by quivering_fantods at 10:20 AM on May 30, 2012


I generally think that when an AskMe appears "ripe" for a self-righteous pileon, the reason that it seems so obvious that the asker deserves a pileon is because the asker has a lot of underlying issues that may end up making the pileon not so great.

I mean, honestly, it's an occupational hazard of an AskMe, especially when one is anonymous.
posted by deanc at 10:26 AM on May 30, 2012


The notion of just trying to be a little more aggressive about getting out in front of the discussion in these cases seems more doable and is something I'll try to keep in mind next time one comes along. I think a gentle sort of "talk about the meta issue, don't dissect the anonymous question to the bare atoms maybe" reminder would be sufficient for most of what would actually be reasonable to ask in here.

That would probably be really helpful - I think a lot of times issues do come up with the anonymous AskMes that do need to be resolved, and it's an unfortunate thing that you don't notice the issues until they come up. I think even when there've been attempts to anonymize which AskMe was referenced, it's usually been outed and discussed later in the thread anyway.

That said, I do think that it is important to ask things like, how harsh is it okay to be, and if someone asks for blunt honesty, does that negate the need to be kind and helpful? And what is the difference between your experience informing your opinions, and making the question a proxy for other topics or axes to grind? When there's a cumulative effect of negativity, what does it mean, and do we in fact maybe need to think harder about how we support and endorse heavy negativity.

There have been some helpful responses to this; I think the idea that you should generally not answer a question unless you can empathize or sympathize with the OP is a good one. Though obviously there are variant opinions on this one.
posted by corb at 10:42 AM on May 30, 2012


That would probably be really helpful - I think a lot of times issues do come up with the anonymous AskMes that do need to be resolved, and it's an unfortunate thing that you don't notice the issues until they come up. I think even when there've been attempts to anonymize which AskMe was referenced, it's usually been outed and discussed later in the thread anyway.

It's a tricky thing, because on the one hand we want folks to be thoughtful about not shining a great big spotlight on someone's bad experience or bad life situation (and this goes for non-anonymous stuff as well as anonymous, really), but on the other hand it can be difficult to be clear about where a metadiscussion is coming from if it's reacting specifically to something that's going on in a specific thread in askme that a lot of people have seen but just sort of declines to make that connection directly. There's metatalk posts that are pretty effective about actually generalizing the point so that it doesn't feel like there's a post-shaped hole in the conversation, but that doesn't always play out that way.

That said, I do think that it is important to ask things like, how harsh is it okay to be, and if someone asks for blunt honesty, does that negate the need to be kind and helpful? And what is the difference between your experience informing your opinions, and making the question a proxy for other topics or axes to grind? When there's a cumulative effect of negativity, what does it mean, and do we in fact maybe need to think harder about how we support and endorse heavy negativity.

It's important to be able to ask about this stuff, and to talk about it, and so on. And it's been talked about a bunch before and will be again, both in reference to specific questions and answers and generally. That's part of what this place is here for, and it happens a lot.

But for example I feel like there's been a lot of folks in this thread saying clearly that they just don't at all see e.g. "heavy negativity" or the endorsement thereof as something that actually went down in this case. Which, that may just be a point of irreconcilable disagreement here and so it goes, but when folks basically don't buy the thesis of your complaint in Metatalk it's not necessarily so much an indication that you're not being heard or that these questions haven't been or aren't being examined as it is that people just plain don't agree with your assessment.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:00 AM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


And what is the difference between your experience informing your opinions, and making the question a proxy for other topics or axes to grind?

This is something that's been on my mind a lot lately regarding human relations questions that have a mental health/behavioral slants to them. I see responses that at times seem to be a startling over-reach of boundaries, including some hardcore Florence Nightengaling in the form over overly-urgent EVERYONE ELSE IS WRONG I KNOW WHAT YOUR EXACT PROBLEM IS MEMAIL ME NOW stuff. Jeepers.

I do think there is an extra duty of care to not get overly intrusive with certain types of questions, but those questions are by nature apt to draw in people who love to go all Armchair Psych on people. Bah.
posted by quivering_fantods at 11:00 AM on May 30, 2012


I'd like to repeat my request for the same old lulzy folks to really consider not doing that thing here.

This frustrates me. We hear that and hear that and hear that... and the same old lulzy folks don't change one damn thing. These requests have proven themselves to be spittin' in the wind.
posted by ambient2 at 11:06 AM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here is where I would suggest a "maybe we need something on the Wiki that's like a 'How to Read Answers to an AskMe' where it reminds you to remember that people project, people assume, people can be wrong, take what helps and leave the rest blah blah blah"...but it's not likely that anyone would read it and it would be one of those helpful projects that sort of gathers dust.
posted by Miko at 11:07 AM on May 30, 2012


This thread kind of reminded me of the "I don't understand resentment" thread in that some people took it kind of personally and assumed some unpleasant things about the author but instead ended up getting confronted with a lot of the author's own personal pain that raised the question in the first place.

AskMe is a tough place to be for askers, specifically because so much of the audience has had to deal with some of their own difficult stuff, and a lot of questions can be really loaded. How do you think every person reading the OP's engagement question who was badgered and stressed about their own proposal and any fallout from it felt when reading it? Of course lots of people are going to response with some "tough love", even when it hadn't necessarily been asked for.

I think a lot of Askers expect that answerers will put themselves in the place of the asker. In many cases, the reader puts him or herself in the place of the subjects of the question.
posted by deanc at 11:10 AM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Miko, it could always go into that email that happens when you put up a post. Although that wouldn't necessarily impact anonymous AskMes, which I do not think get those emails. Though maybe having whatever mod put up said AskMe send out the email might be valuable? Something to ponder.
posted by corb at 11:10 AM on May 30, 2012


That said, I do think that it is important to ask things like, how harsh is it okay to be, and if someone asks for blunt honesty, does that negate the need to be kind and helpful? And what is the difference between your experience informing your opinions, and making the question a proxy for other topics or axes to grind? When there's a cumulative effect of negativity, what does it mean, and do we in fact maybe need to think harder about how we support and endorse heavy negativity.

I think it's clear that those are the questions you've asked here, and I don't think anyone has said you were wrong to raise them here. But I'll be blunt: I personally don't agree with you that the answers were unkind or unhelpful or heavily negative, and if I had to choose, I'd say you're the one making the question a proxy for other topics or axes to grind. Those are my personal responses to the questions you've raised, in the context of this AskMe.
posted by palliser at 11:10 AM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Metafilter collectively piled on to this OP so hard that she returned to update that she was actually essentially being triggered by the responses.

Also, while I agree with the other commenters that this is probably not quite the right use of "triggered," it is fair to argue that people who have experienced their share of "I'm not telling you what my romantic expectations are for this event, BUT YOU SHOULD KNOW AND I WILL BE UPSET IF YOU FAIL" probably got "triggered" by the question.
posted by deanc at 11:18 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is something that's been on my mind a lot lately regarding human relations questions that have a mental health/behavioral slants to them. I see responses that at times seem to be a startling over-reach of boundaries, including some hardcore Florence Nightengaling in the form over overly-urgent EVERYONE ELSE IS WRONG I KNOW WHAT YOUR EXACT PROBLEM IS MEMAIL ME NOW stuff. Jeepers.

I've written about this before, but in addition to those very confident responses to direct questions, there is also an issue with earnest reframings of questions, or of the terms with which we discuss certain topics. This happens quite a lot around sexual assault, it certainly happens around mental health issues, and I think that's part of what happened here in the discussion of whether or not the OP was "triggered" by the answers they received. The issue is that people see their own position as an unmitigated good, the definition of terms as a source of strength, the politics of the human relations framing as central to dealing healthily with the issues. This is not necessarily so, however. There is a distinct difference between, say, rape, or PTSD triggers, as a sociological issue, and as a personal issue that someone is trying their best to live through. It's sociologically important to call a rape a rape. It's psychologically important to allow each survivor to define for themselves what they went through. It's sociologically important to recognize that triggers are a real, dangerous, and debilitating psychological phenomenon. It's psychologically important to allow each survivor to arrive at their own understanding and definition of what constitutes a trigger, or even whether the concept is a useful one for them. Telling someone that they were raped, or that they have triggers, or even that they have a major mental disorder, may or may not promote healing for them. Those things are amazingly helpful for many folks, and certainly at the macro level it is important to identify them and promote understanding that we are talking about real phenomena, but it's wrong to think that the only way through a shitty experience is, e.g., calling it rape, or coming up with a list of triggers. Those strategies, which work for some people, can be very harmful for other folks. This is true, broadly, with responses to mental health questions in which folks fail to distinguish between something that is necessary for healing and something that was of help to them.
posted by OmieWise at 11:24 AM on May 30, 2012 [31 favorites]


Though maybe having whatever mod put up said AskMe send out the email might be valuable?

This will not happen. We do not maintain a link between the question and the questioner and would not be able to send this message without significantly changing the way the anonymous feature works. In addition, any commentary that is seen as coming from a mod is seen as having the force of policy behind it which would not be the case with something that was written on the wiki.

I appreciate that you care deeply about this corb, but my feelings are more in line with palliser's, that this was not a "really godwaful" situation and, as such, is not requiring urgent remedies. I think the questions you raise are good ones. At the same time I think there's got to be some awareness that there is a breadth of opinion on the subject of appropriate responses to AskMe questions. I feel like you are entering this discussion with preconceptions of that thread as a mess, of the answers as unduly harsh, and of the OP as significantly impacted in a damaging way by the answers she received.

I don't think that these premises are universally agreed upon at this time or even agreed upon by the majority of the people who have been discussing them here, so we won't be implementing anything as if they were.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:58 AM on May 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


because of course the MeTa audience is broader than the set of those hanging out on the Green reading human relations queries.

I do believe that it's the other way 'round, actually.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 12:10 PM on May 30, 2012


urbanwhaleshark: I feel more sad that the Awl post was written by a member of Metafilter than I do if it were written by a stranger to the site.

Given that two days ago jessamyn said:
I'd strongly prefer that people didn't repurpose our content on their advertiser supported website and make money off of other people's awkward situations.
and yesterday she said:
I personally think that removing this question from its context is not a great thing for someone to have done but my personal feeling about that is separate from my professional feeling about it which is that it's not illegal and it's not even unethical to the point where we'd start a thing about it. It's just uncool in that "Hey man, not cool" way that sometimes happens. So I agree with people, it's disrespectful generally speaking.
and earlier today taz said:
I'm not really fond of these call-outs of Ask Me threads that involve personal questions, and even less so when they are anonymous. For one thing, it draws a great deal more attention to something sensitive than most posters ever anticipate, and the whole thing becomes more freighted as people start arguing both sides of the issue...

...I really feel like they shouldn't be forced to deal with some angry site issue (often with attendant attacks on them, personally) as a byproduct of their post.

To me, this is the biggest flaw in the Metatalk system of handling site problems/questions. I cringe every time someone's at-all personal question is brought up here. I don't know what to do about that, but I'd urge people to maybe try discussing it with us first, or at least to try to frame the Metatalk thread to be less about a single post or poster and more about general observations.

It's difficult, because then people demand links to examples, but I'll just make a general plea to try to be aware of the spotlight that a Metatalk post throws on specific questions like this, and the likelihood that people will then begin to deconstruct the post in ways that don't normally happen in the typical life of a thread on Ask Metafilter...
...my reaction is less sad and more angry. It's one thing to drag the "triggers" discussion over to The Awl - but the Anon AskMe is dragged over there as well. It should not have been, since it was not necessary to have done so, and I definitely expect a member of the site should be more sensitive to that, especially with what the mods have said about it (all quoted above) very recently here.
posted by flex at 12:19 PM on May 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


i also find myself angry at the awl post. i'm basically at a point where i wish i hadn't participated in this thread at all. it's just one massive misread after another.
posted by nadawi at 12:37 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I definitely expect a member of the site should be more sensitive to that, especially with what the mods have said about it (all quoted above) very recently here.

Not everyone reads MeTa with any frequency, flex. The fact that all those comments were made in the last few days is an interesting coincidence, but it's not really fair to imagine that the entire community Learned A Valuable Lesson from them, which this one user has now violated.

It's not like we all get a notification when a mod has spoken out on the subject of a particular issue.
posted by hermitosis at 1:49 PM on May 30, 2012


hermitosis, that argument might hold more weight with me if the Awl post hadn't been directly linking to, quoting, and discussing this very MeTa thread. taz's comment that I quoted is here in this thread, and mod comments are highlighted with the "staff" badge; this was posted to The Awl by a longtime member who definitely understands the finer details of MeFi, as well. I do expect better, given those circumstances.
posted by flex at 1:55 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I definitely expect a member of the site should be more sensitive to that, especially with what the mods have said about it (all quoted above) very recently here.

I do expect better, given those circumstances.

You don't have the right to expect anything. The mods personal feelings are the mods personal feelings. They are not rules or guidelines. No one is obligated to modify their behavior offsite based on how (2 of the 5) mods feel about said behavior, as both mods said themselves.
posted by nooneyouknow at 2:10 PM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's one thing to drag the "triggers" discussion over to The Awl - but the Anon AskMe is dragged over there as well. It should not have been, since it was not necessary to have done so...

I am actually having a hard time trying to figure out how the Awl post could have been written without a brief synopsis of the anonymous question, and I think your expectations are a bit high here. The Awl post is not at all of the "let's point and laugh at the anon question" genre; it's just used as background for the discussion of trigger warnings.

Are you suggesting that MeFi members have an obligation to never discuss, or even link to, Ask human relations questions when posting anywhere else on the internet?
posted by lalex at 2:19 PM on May 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


In initially reading the AskMe then this MeTa, I had a few specific things that I'd wanted to pitch in to the discussion. Then I saw the comment I responded to previously and just focused on that. Now I've come back, read how the AskMe has evolved, read through this entire mutated thread, and now wish I'd never seen either one.

In the initial question, the Asker preloaded the question with two things that I took as warnings for those answering: notification that she felt immense shame for her response, and advisement that she already felt really shitty about even thinking twice about it. Additionally, she wrote that she'd talked to her fiance about it already. All of those points were ignored by several people. Not all. Not even the majority. But several. And there were a couple of really, truly crappy answers that she probably saw before they were deleted. And there were several answers full of baggage containing the answerer's overripe personal garbage. So, yeah, I can see how she could have been upset by the accrual of answers and maybe somewhat floored at how literally she was taken. She may have thought the self-deprecation and broadcasting of shamed feelings would mitigate some of the response, perhaps?

Admittedly, she did make some of her question seem like a request for tough love. And she should, perhaps, have foreseen that there would be people who would take that part of the question most seriously. And maybe even that there would be people so afflicted by bitterness and/or cynicism that they would be incapable of answering without making as negative a reading on her situation as possible, since that happens on emotional relationship Asks all day long.

Still, when she came in and said that she'd been taken aback at some of the responses but would be doing whatever she could to move forward in a positive fashion, I think that should have been the end of that flavour of response. It wasn't, though.

Then the MeTa. When the word "triggered" is invoked, I picture a very specific set of potential responses for the person bringing it into play and try to work from the most humane point of view as possible. Because I take this so seriously, it's uncomfortable for me to see another person appropriating it for someone else who may not have that actual extremity of response. I grokked where corb was coming from with it and I've certainly been in a similar place before, but I didn't think it was the best example of any element involved - not the type of question, not the type of response, and not of "triggering".

And some of the responses to the original Ask that floated over here were exactly the kind of thing that should have stopped when she said she had what she needed and was overwhelmed. When folks cry "Uncle!", we should respect that.

So, I glanced in a couple of times but kept successfully actually getting involved, although that got harder once the "hahahahahaha TRIGGERED!" crap started.

I agree that it can be over-used. I agree that some people use it inappopriately. I agree that some people use it to control other people's good faith participation. Mocking the reality it indicates and expressing general disdain for anyone who might use it, though, is a step too far, and it surprised me (why, I don't know) to see that step taken here. Repeatedly. And then the Awl thing. Tonedeaf doesn't cover it. I don't know what does. Gross? Disappointing? Grossly disappointing? Maybe.

My prior comment was sincere, and I'll extend it to anyone else bothered by the usage of "trigger/triggering/triggered" as invoked by corb (not the AskMe OP, to be clear - some people seemed to be confused about that): if you want to come together to work out a middle ground where my revulsion for people who create the situations that require a flag word for any subset of humanity and your revulsion for the perceived over/misuse of flag words (I do hope that's what your revulsion hinges upon) can create parameters we can all live with, I'm game. Sign me right up.

I feel really badly for the OP of that Ask. I feel badly for the several members of the community having their eyes opened to some of the people around them in a way that didn't feel very good. I feel badly for the mods, having to wade into this mess and finding that it kept rising deeper.

Just a few days ago, many of these same people came together to express respect for the fact that we can be compassionate, that we can extend love, that we can be a community even when we're split between stung, smug, and gobsmacked. And now...this?

I just don't know. I wish I understood why something that seemed really simple on the surface and probably ultimately meaningless could create such a feeling of heartsickness, could spawn so much confusion, reveal so much vitriol.

Whyyyyyyyy, MetaFilter?! Whyyyyyyyyy?!?!?
posted by batmonkey at 2:27 PM on May 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't have the right to demand anything or say that anyone is obligated to do anything, and I'm not doing any such thing here. I have an expectation that invested members of a community will be concerned with being sensitive to that community, at least more so than a stranger - I don't think that's an unreasonable expectation. You may disagree with that, which is fine, but I'm not asserting any rights here. I gave my position on the matter to explain the strength of my reaction.

My specific points of contention on the Awl post are that 1) the anon question is removed from its context on this site; 2) the anon question didn't need to be directly linked anyway since this MeTa is already directly linked and quoted; 3) I don't think the synopsis of the anon question there is very respectful - it sounds like it's mocking the asker; 4) I do think a certain sensitivity should be extended to those asking questions - especially those asking anon questions because they can't respond to discussion elsewhere without outing themselves, and while they might anticipate a blow-up in their own question thread, should they really be subjected to a cascading blow-up in MeTa or on another site entirely?

Again, you are free to disagree, and absolutely, it's a big wide Internet out there, and them's the breaks when you post something publicly anywhere online, but surely I can say I find it disrespectful and that it's not a great thing for this community when it happens. I'm not obligating anyone else to agree with me on the matter or even to do a damn thing about it - I'm sharing my thoughts, here, within this community, in the place where I'm supposed to do so.
posted by flex at 2:46 PM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


taz: "I for one am definitely interested in more communication and discussion about this in a human and practical way, but I'm also honestly confused. Are a lot of people here agreeing that answers in the referenced thread were triggering for them? Or... what are we talking about, concretely?"

I'm also very interested in this type of discussion, but that is neither where this started nor where it ended up. From my perspective, it started with a group of members here being told they were too mean to someone, transitioned into a bunch of people competing to see how much worse they could make those people feel by inventing things that others had said and ended in, well, fucked if I know what this is, but it ain't pretty and it doesn't reflect well on any of us, either as a community or as individuals. I think this thread needs to be put out of everyone's misery before it gets even worse.
posted by dg at 2:53 PM on May 30, 2012


Maybe I missed a comment in this thread, or maybe something has been deleted, but I have no idea how people are concluding (or know?) that the author of that Awl article is also a member of MetaFilter.
posted by cribcage at 3:34 PM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I feel badly for the mods, having to wade into this mess and finding that it kept rising deeper.


The mods that have commented all seem fairly relaxed about the content of that Askme thread.

The people who have created the mess and made it rise deeper are a few oversensitive souls who seem convinced that the Ask thread was anywhere close to a real pile on.

I just don't know. I wish I understood why something that seemed really simple on the surface and probably ultimately meaningless could create such a feeling of heartsickness, could spawn so much confusion, reveal so much vitriol.

Whyyyyyyyy, MetaFilter?! Whyyyyyyyyy?!?!?


Yeah, pretty much like this.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 3:45 PM on May 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


cribcage, here.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 4:40 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I waited on Sara Jessica Parker at the store today. She was looking Custom of the cOunty by Edith Wharton and I found it. She was very nice.
posted by jonmc at 4:53 PM on May 30, 2012


Jesus, jonmc, how many times do you have to be asked before you stop injecting random tweets into the middle of active discussions?
posted by lalex at 5:39 PM on May 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Whatever. Carry on with the pointless unfun discussion you've had 9 zillion times before.
posted by jonmc at 5:58 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously, once a MeTa thread has gotten to over 200 comments nothing productive is really going to happen. It's just the same old people saying the same old shit, including me.
posted by jonmc at 6:00 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


jonmc, we need you to stop doing this, please. Feel free to hit us up on the contact form if you'd like to talk about it some more.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:05 PM on May 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


There is a distinct difference between, say, rape, or PTSD triggers, as a sociological issue, and as a personal issue that someone is trying their best to live through. It's sociologically important to call a rape a rape. It's psychologically important to allow each survivor to define for themselves what they went through. It's sociologically important to recognize that triggers are a real, dangerous, and debilitating psychological phenomenon. It's psychologically important to allow each survivor to arrive at their own understanding and definition of what constitutes a trigger, or even whether the concept is a useful one for them.

There's definitely a lot of truth to that, Omiewise. I think the problem comes in the in between bits. For example, in the abovementioned instance, a survivor should certainly get the right to define for themselves what term they want to use for their assault. At the same time, someone observing the incident might think that there is only one term that justly fits what they witnessed. A third person, hearing the incident recounted, might use a different term. And for the people who are not the survivor, there are very real and very important reasons to use each of the terms they've chosen, both political and personal. There might even be real and important reasons to report the incident, by whichever term they've chosen, regardless of whether the survivor has asked them to do so or not.

So what do you do? What then do we expect that people do?

I used the terminology of triggering because that's quite simply what it looked like to me. As a witness to the thread, it appeared to me that was what happened. And for me, a prime principle is that when you think something is going on that is wrong, you challenge it in the best way that you can. You use the most appropriate language that you can, and you challenge the behavior you find problematic so that it doesn't happen again.

I accept that a lot of MeFites may have other opinions reading the thread, especially the updated thread. I accept that possibly even as jessamyn suggests, a majority of people disagree with my perception of what are appropriate responses to someone who's already expressed feeling shame.

At the same time, I don't think that either of those mean that I shouldn't have raised the thread in the first place, or shouldn't have used the words that my experience told me to apply to the situation I saw.
posted by corb at 7:04 PM on May 30, 2012


How can we do this better and keep our own issues out of being helpful?

And.

That said, I do think that it is important to ask things like, how harsh is it okay to be, and if someone asks for blunt honesty, does that negate the need to be kind and helpful? And what is the difference between your experience informing your opinions, and making the question a proxy for other topics or axes to grind? When there's a cumulative effect of negativity, what does it mean, and do we in fact maybe need to think harder about how we support and endorse heavy negativity.

I'm sorry OP, but my take on this thread is that you are working out your own issues here and it is preventing you from being helpful. My interpretation is that something in the AskMe thread (ahem) triggered you and you are inserting too much of your own experiences into it. As a result you are making sweeping judgments about how this community should behave. I think you are axe-grinding by proxy. I believe your defense of the AskMe OP is a proxy defense. While you say you want us to question and think through what it means to be kind, harsh, helpful, negative etc., I can't help but wonder if this is less a statement about what we should be doing and more a comment something you're personally struggling with.
posted by space_cookie at 9:55 PM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


From now on, I intend to take Winna's great advice and only reply if I have some sort of empathy for the OP. In this case I do, both for the original asker and for the poster of this thread, but I can't remember the last time I felt so disheartened by a MeTa discussion. I know, there have been other notably bad threads lately but this one really got to me. I think it's because I can understand both sides here (if there are in fact only two?). I wish, as others have stated, that people wouldn't use "trigger" to refer to such a wide variety of situations, which I think can trivialize a serious term. But it's completely unfunny to come into the thread and crack jokes about whether you have to mark unpleasant link x as a trigger; I'd rather have five false alarms about whether a post has hurt someone than one instance of someone posting something that could be genuinely upsetting to someone else on Mefi. (And I'm not saying I'm triggered, but I really don't ever need more by-the-way jokey-sounding references to rape. Do you?) I hope that in general posters will use their empathy, here as well as in Ask.
posted by mlle valentine at 10:10 PM on May 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have a hypothesis, I guess, about what happened here. corb, I am left with the feeling that, at bottom, you feel as if many answerers in the original thread could have been kinder in their answers. So, when you voiced some version of this sentiment (I never saw your deleted post in the original thread) and it was deleted and you were invited to take the issue to MeTa, you came here and posted.

But you didn't just say, "Hey, several of the comments in there were blunter than they could have been, and, more than that, some comments went too far in light of the OP's plea to stop feeling shame, and I think we ought to collectively be more thoughtful in situations like that."

I think you went beyond this, like when you characterized it as a collective pileon, or when you used the now much-discussed reference to triggering, or called it godawful and completely backwards. Maybe this was just because you weren't sure how to frame your feelings about the issue in a MeTa post? Because I think the point of view that the respondents could have been more thoughtful in light of the OP's admission that she already felt shame is pretty reasonable. I mean, I don't agree in this particular case, but I understand where you're coming from. But I also think that the rhetoric in your MeTa OP, and I suppose your continuing defense/explanation of it helped this thread explode into something I wonder if you never intended it to.

For what it's worth, I think the "how blunt is appropriately blunt" debate to be meaningful enough that we should probably all have it with ourselves before we ever press the Post Comment button, so I'm at least glad to have had the opportunity to have thought about that a little.

If I've wholly misdiagnosed this, I apologize.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:20 PM on May 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Not only was that in the original question (as noted just above), but was touched on in some answers, such as brainmouse's: "You "offered" to propose? Why didn't you just do it? You literally discussed the fact that you were going to get engaged, how is that not, you know, being engaged?"

Ah, then I was wrong! Happens all the time, sadly, which I why I allowed for that in this case. Good to know that mefites can be consistent and reasonable at the same time. For the record, though, the OP itself doesn't really pertain to what I was saying.
posted by Edgewise at 2:47 AM on May 31, 2012


. I think that the problem I had with some of the responses to this situation actually could have been fixed by winna's suggestion. It seemed like a lot of people not only had no empathy with the OP, but also may actively have had prejudices against the OP's perspective.

Except that there is no reason for answerers to be biased in favor of the OP. In fact, it's probably best if there is a mix of different biases. I mean, sure, there's a time and place for this kind of thing, but AskMe isn't (and shouldn't be) that place.
posted by deanc at 7:10 AM on May 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


As a witness to the thread, it appeared to me that was what happened. And for me, a prime principle is that when you think something is going on that is wrong, you challenge it in the best way that you can. You use the most appropriate language that you can, and you challenge the behavior you find problematic so that it doesn't happen again.

Well, the plain fact is, you don't know what happened. The only person who can tell you thy are being triggered is the person in question. It's not up to you to take that agency away from them. All you had to do was avoid using a medical term with a specific meaning to characterize something you are viewing at a remove. "the OP was very upset" would have been perfectly appropriate, yet you used a word that implied that people who answered her question were knowingly abusing her. To do it in a context where you are accusing other people of triggering someone else because they have no empathy is not only deeply unfair, it is your projection of multiple assumptions onto multiple people you don't know. You seem unwilling to examine the fact that you might have gone too far with your diagnosis of Anonymous and condemnation of anyone who answered that question in a way you didn't like.

I accept that possibly even as jessamyn suggests, a majority of people disagree with my perception of what are appropriate responses to someone who's already expressed feeling shame.

This is not what jessamyn said:

At the same time I think there's got to be some awareness that there is a breadth of opinion on the subject of appropriate responses to AskMe questions. I feel like you are entering this discussion with preconceptions of that thread as a mess, of the answers as unduly harsh, and of the OP as significantly impacted in a damaging way by the answers she received.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:34 AM on May 31, 2012 [10 favorites]


You use the most appropriate language that you can, and you challenge the behavior you find problematic so that it doesn't happen again.

My reading of the MeTa is that the language used to frame the complaint wasn't appropriate.

The language used has strong undertones of shaming: it refers to supposed "baggage" that respondents brought to their answers; it characterizes the responses collectively as "godawful"; and takes it step further as branding us with a "black mark". I would suggest that this use of language isn't conducive to opening the floor to measured, civil debate, particularly when the topic at hand is about shame and shaming.
posted by quivering_fantods at 11:04 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hi all,

The original OP actually messaged me about her situation shortly after I opened this MeTa, and messaged the mods to ask about potentially responding with mod-support so as not to out herself. She did not get a response, so in a recent followup mail to me, gave me permission to post some of her mail, which I have done, excerpting her name and the part that was just thanking me and so on. I think it might be really useful just as a window into how this kind of behavior really impacts other people - and also on a positive note with some of the good that has come out of all this.

I think that this MeTa definitely has been bruising, and in some places disheartening. I think that some of the questions raised remain unanswered, but I don't think that we're going to get any further in this thread given the way it's gone already. I am glad that we're having these discussions, though, and think we'll probably wind up having them again, and that's okay.

From the original OP:

Sometimes metafilter can be a very supportive and enlightening place, and it was with that expectation that I posted my question. After reading some of the meannest (yes, mean and nasty, speaking as the person most affected) answers and noting all their favourites, seeing the way you and others were being argued down in metatalk, no response (to me) from the mods, and then the awfully shitty Awl posting--whose author certainly took license for their insensitivity from the threads, I seriously considered disabling my account. I certainly regretted ever posting in the first place.

Then I went back to my post and was really pleased and heartened to find a series of wonderful new comments of exactly the kind that I was seeking. I guess I didn't frame my post well enough; I should have just requested proposal stories, since those made me realise that I'm neither alone nor a cretin for having my initial feelings, or for the way we went about preparing to get engaged. Feeling "not alone" is what it turned out I needed. That being said, I will always disagree that I "asked for" answers devoid of empathy. I no longer regret posting the question because in spite of the judgements and mischaracterisations in the askme and in the ensuing metatalk ("princess" by far being the most amusing) and the general brouhaha, I got quite a lot of beauty out of it, and I sincerely hope those answers help others in similar situations.
posted by corb at 1:48 PM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


messaged the mods to ask about potentially responding with mod-support so as not to out herself.

cortex wrote back to her seven minutes after she emailed the contact form with some suggestions and an offer to post anon for her if she wanted that assistance. The OP has two email addresses and perhaps she thought she emailed from the other one, or perhaps something got caught in a spam folder.

For the record: we always write back to contact form email, every time. If you're feeling weird because you feel like you should have heard from us about something, please ping us again or try us on chat or MeMail in case there's some email problem.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:03 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, contact form email comes into as from logged-in users as being from the email address they list (possibly publicly, possibly admin-visible-only) in their preferences. If that address is actually defunct or outright broken that will be clear to us when we get a non-deliverable message when we respond, but if it's an active address someone just isn't checking then we have no way of knowing that.

As a general idea, it's a good idea to keep your email address up to date in the system, but beyond that what Jess says: ping us via another channel if you're not hearing from us, because not hearing from us over more than a period of a few hours (and usually more a matter of minutes) suggests something has gone wrong in the communication medium itself.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:08 PM on May 31, 2012


There is the bizzare thing where Metafilter will flip out about people who don't conform to various non-conformist lifestyle aspects. One example is hating on people who eat what most Americans eat, as if they should all be cooking gourmet food at home or some bullshit. I guess this could be another example.

Also, I think this is a poor use of the word "trigger" as well. Usually it's used with respect to serious sexual violence. Maybe I had a terrible boss once but I can't expect people to put up "trigger warnings" every time they want to talk about TPS reports.
posted by delmoi at 2:08 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Feeling "not alone" is what it turned out I needed....I no longer regret posting the question because in spite of the judgements and mischaracterisations in the askme and in the ensuing metatalk ("princess" by far being the most amusing) and the general brouhaha, I got quite a lot of beauty out of it, and I sincerely hope those answers help others in similar situations.

Yeah!! Success!! Awesome OP got a whole bunch of what she didn't want, felt a whole mess of stuff that wasn't what she wanted to feel and by the by got much closer to and clearer about what she did want and ended up getting more of it.

Can't ask for better than that. At least in my world.

"Bad" threads aren't always the disasters they seem to be. I firmly believe there are often very cool and interesting things happening within and underneath the messiest threads. See exhibit A above.
posted by space_cookie at 2:10 PM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's all somewhat strange.
posted by Miko at 2:11 PM on May 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


serious emotional abuse from family can absolutely result in triggers. this whole line of argument continues to be really bizarre to me. i think people are conflating the act of someone being possibly triggered and what actions the community at large should take. like my example upthread - i'm triggered by vanilla perfume, but i'm not looking for everyone to stop wearing it. corb seemed to be arguing for some sort of action or change of tone - but there are others of us who say that triggers are real, they aren't as narrow in scope as some seem to believe, and no action on your part is needed. people continuing to be jerky about triggers and defining what sort of trauma they think is appropriate to cause PTSD/triggers is really shitty.
posted by nadawi at 2:17 PM on May 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't think that we're going to get any further in this thread given the way it's gone already.

This statement suggests to me that there was a particular way you'd hoped the thread would run; and now that it's gone in all sorts of directions other than the one(s) you personally wanted, you are wanting to shut down any further discussion. Am I reading this correctly? I may be off-base here; if so, I apologize.

Hot-button topics like this one naturally are going to bring forth dissenting points of view, and heated replies, *especially* given the way the issue was framed here. In my experience, creating a topic that takes an adversarial stance generally leads to verbal elbows being thrown in response.

I'm going to throw a little more weight than I normally would into my words here: I feel you are trying to browbeat people into behaving in ways that you would like them to, and are inappropriately injecting the anonymous asker into this thread as a moral shield. I'm feeling extremely uncomfortable with your approach.
posted by quivering_fantods at 2:17 PM on May 31, 2012 [11 favorites]


i do pretty much agree with quivering_fantods and space_cookie on the two comments above. i don't think the original thread was particularly awful and i do think that corb approached this thread badly.
posted by nadawi at 2:21 PM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sometimes metafilter can be a very supportive and enlightening place, and it was with that expectation that I posted my question.

Sometimes I'm glad that my first metafilter question was a dicey human relations question where there was a bit of a typical metafilter pile-on, some of which borrowed directly from the self-shaming language I used in my post to tell me my worst fears about myself. It taught me a lot about this community--that you should come in with the expectation of tough love, that the way you phrase your questions matters, that this is a place of largely very analytic people who approach their lives and their emotions as logically as they can and will expect the same out of you.

Ironically, I've become more like this--more like a mefite--in regards to myself in the four years that I've been here. And I've come so far in my life and with my mental health! But I sure wouldn't post a human relations question in the future expecting unmitigated sympathy, like I once did. I think we're an empathetic community, but not always a sympathetic one. Like I said, mefites are hard on themselves, too, in my experience.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:33 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a little confused I guess by corb's message with the note from the OP and what exactly we're supposed to take from it.

The OP of the AskMe in question writes:

I guess I didn't frame my post well enough; I should have just requested proposal stories, since those made me realise that I'm neither alone nor a cretin for having my initial feelings, or for the way we went about preparing to get engaged.

So, the OP acknowledges having framed her question poorly, essentially asking a different question than the one she was really hoping to get an answer to ("Please share your imperfect proposal stories"), yet those of us who thought we were answering in good-faith based on how the question actually was asked deserve to be "shamed" for being awful, cruel people for not having ESP? Sorry, that in itself is pretty non-empathetic.
posted by The Gooch at 2:49 PM on May 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the OP specifically says that she's open to opinions amounting to a "figurative slap in the face" and - despite that invitation! - I wouldn't characterize any of the existing responses in that thread as "mean and nasty."

So to answer corb's original question, I don't think there's really anything that could have been done better here.
posted by lalex at 2:59 PM on May 31, 2012


i'm triggered by vanilla perfume

With all due respect, and because I'm curious, what does this actually mean, concretely?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:20 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, the OP acknowledges having framed her question poorly, essentially asking a different question than the one she was really hoping to get an answer to ("Please share your imperfect proposal stories"), yet those of us who thought we were answering in good-faith based on how the question actually was asked deserve to be "shamed" for being awful, cruel people for not having ESP? Sorry, that in itself is pretty non-empathetic.

She didn't ask it badly, just ineffectively in the sense that she didn't get what she was after. This wasn't in bad faith. It's just what happens in life. (not that you're suggesting bad faith or anything...)

Messy human relations = messy human relations threads=messy MeTa threads. No harm. No foul.

I think I want oatmeal, get meh oatmeal but with yummy chocolate chips in it. I realize what I really wanted all along was chocolate chip ice cream. Thank you meh oatmeal!

No one deserves to be shamed. However, feeling shamed and being shamed are not the same thing. I never felt shamed by corb's comments, I don't believe shaming us was ever the intention. I am still not certain exactly what the intention was, but I don't believe shaming us or anyone played into it.
This was fun.
posted by space_cookie at 3:50 PM on May 31, 2012


one of my rapists used vanilla lotion to "relax" me and afterwards i could smell it in my hair for weeks. it's one of the things that led me to go from hair down my back to a pixie cut. for years after, being around vanilla perfume/lotion meant a full blown panic attack, cowering in the darkest, smallest space i could fit into, shaking and crying. sometimes there would be disassociation that could take days to fully recover from. sometimes it would lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms like cutting, spikes in my anorexia, and other unsafe behaviors.

slowly through the last 15ish years, i've learned to manage it in a healthier way. i first try to get out of the situation, if i can't, i try to chew on something like cinnamon gum and use hand sanitizer. i've also learned some breathing exercises to center myself in those moments. luckily, it seems to be going out of fashion as a scent that women gravitate towards.
posted by nadawi at 3:57 PM on May 31, 2012 [10 favorites]


that was in response to stavrosthewonderchicken
posted by nadawi at 3:57 PM on May 31, 2012


I understand. Thanks for letting me know, and for being so honest. I was genuinely curious.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:49 PM on May 31, 2012


This statement suggests to me that there was a particular way you'd hoped the thread would run; and now that it's gone in all sorts of directions other than the one(s) you personally wanted, you are wanting to shut down any further discussion. Am I reading this correctly? I may be off-base here; if so, I apologize.

I mostly meant the long side arguments as to the nature of triggers, whether or not the use of the word trigger is appropriate in various circumstances, what is real trauma, etc. I'm not saying "Yeah, the thread sucks now that people don't agree with me," more, "I think those questions I think are unanswered are not going to be discussed." I personally don't have issues with elbows being thrown my way, or with further discussion, I just was kind of throwing up my own hands.

I'm going to throw a little more weight than I normally would into my words here: I feel you are trying to browbeat people into behaving in ways that you would like them to, and are inappropriately injecting the anonymous asker into this thread as a moral shield. I'm feeling extremely uncomfortable with your approach.

This is inaccurate and I think you are unfairly assigning motives to me that are not present. The anonymous asker messaged me very recently, and as I had been under the impression that she was not able to get responses from mods, I posted the message for her, as suggested, within minutes. If it's inappropriate to do so, mods are more than welcome to remove it, particularly as it seems there were paths crossed in terms of contact between the mods and the anonymous asker.
posted by corb at 5:44 PM on May 31, 2012


This is inaccurate and I think you are unfairly assigning motives to me that are not present.

Which part is inaccurate? You aren't trying to browbeat people into behaving in ways that you would like them to? It certainly comes across that way.
posted by grouse at 5:58 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


This and other MeTa threads can help us detect when people don't hear us, and why. Sometimes it's just the wind in their ears, or earmuffs, or sometimes partial or complete deafness. Sometimes they hear their own anticipated response so loudly that there's no room for anything else. Sometimes they recognize what's been said but have invested so much into their own point of view that they refuse to listen.

Why is this intelligence useful? Because sooner or later we can act on what we've perceived: we can stop trying to shout through the wind or the earmuffs or the self-absorption or the stonewall. We can just throw our hands up in the air, shrug, maybe look vainly once more for a glimmer of recognition, then turn and walk away.

We can be grateful for the lessons MetaTalk teaches us.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:21 PM on May 31, 2012


for years after, being around vanilla perfume/lotion meant a full blown panic attack, cowering in the darkest, smallest space i could fit into, shaking and crying. sometimes there would be disassociation that could take days to fully recover from. sometimes it would lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms like cutting, spikes in my anorexia, and other unsafe behaviors.

I hope the folks who jump into threads to sneer at "triggering" are still reading. Thanks, nadawi; I imagine that wasn't easy to write.
posted by mediareport at 8:25 PM on May 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


There was a question in AskMe a while ago about the experience of being triggered, if anyone is interested in reading more personal accounts of the phenomenon. (The triggered = offended idea baffles me a little -- I am contemptuous of a ton of stuff that doesn't trigger me, and totally unoffended by most things that do!)
posted by bewilderbeast at 9:24 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't step out of this thread. Clearly I have issues to work out.

"I think those questions I think are unanswered are not going to be discussed."

If this is your take, just tinker with what those questions are and what you hope to achieve by asking them. If you're not getting the answers you want, play with how you ask the question.

This is the only suggestion I can come up with to address the hurt feelings question:

Before posting anything in this community that may impact your emotional well-being please do the following:

1. Read threads in the places you want to post/comment/respond. Lots and lots of them.
2. Read for what seems unkind to you. Look for posts that to you seem: ugly, fighty, mean, cruel, insensitive, communicate a profound misinterpretation of intent or desire, are fraught with ill will and bad faith, are head-scratchingly beside the point, are axe grindy, about someone else's garbage, aren't helpful in the slightest etc. etc.
3. Ask yourself could I take something like this and still be okay?

If the answer is yes, post away. If the answer is no or I'm not sure, please be cautious about trusting a large, diverse community with anything emotionally sensitive or vulnerable to you.

As to calling out a community, raising questions and asking for change:

Please understand the following:

1. Individuals have values.
2. Communities have values.
3. Sometimes those values mesh, sometimes they don't.
4. It is not possible, appropriate, desirable or necessary for everyone here to be in complete agreement about what certain values mean and how they are prioritized, defined, communicated and reinforced.

corb, while I very much disagree and take issue with a lot of what you've posted here, I do agree that things like axe-grinding by proxy, lack of empathy and sensitivity, etc. etc. can be problematic, that hurt feelings can emerge from this type of behavior, and that it does not always forward interesting or helpful posts/threads. The thing is, kindness and sensitivity don't always forward interesting or helpful threads either.

The bad news is that (clearly) there is no way to develop a workable, agreeable definition of what any of this means and what it looks like from post to post, thread to thread. This kind of stuff is just way to subjective and context driven.

The good news is that this is not desirable or necessary....here.

I don't think kindness, empathy and sensitivity are necessarily the highest values of this community. This does not mean folks don't care about this and have license to be assholes, it just means that the value of a contribution is typically not measured by its kindness. This community is structured in such a way that the value and usefulness of a contribution/thread is also not measured by the OP alone....even in AskMe. The AskMe OP is the first and only authority on her feelings and what she wanted. She is not the first or only authority on the kindness, value, usefulness or whatever of that thread and its comments. Neither are you.

Your original post was a call to a community writ large to examine behavior you believed was unkind and unhelpful and that we should change or self-reflect because people can get hurt. Please be sensitive to why this smacked to many folks as you criticizing others for not fitting your definition of kind and helpful when kind and helpful are a value here, but not The Value.

You saw the AskMe thread as an example of what's wrong with this community. I see it and how the OP managed herself as an example of what is right with it. The universe unerringly corrects itself and so does MetaFilter and so do MeFites.
posted by space_cookie at 9:25 PM on May 31, 2012 [10 favorites]


This thread was really informative for me. I liked this comment by deanc:

I think a lot of Askers expect that answerers will put themselves in the place of the asker. In many cases, the reader puts him or herself in the place of the subjects of the question.

For me, this is the key to why AskMe is both useful and tricky. Some (a lot?) of the answers to personal AskMes would be considered pretty rude if they were voiced in person by friends, family or work colleagues.

For example, if someone said to me in person, "Maybe I need a slap in the face,"" I'd be all, "Oh, no, honey, why would you say that?" I'd be looking for cues to see if they really felt that bad about themselves. Ignoring it, and focusing on something they said earlier, would feel totally inappropriate. On a lesser scale, if someone is recounting a negative experience with a third person, it would feel somewhat inappropriate to launch immediately into justifications on that third person's behalf or in general to try to "correct" the view of the person you're actually talking to. I mean, you might get around to that, but first you'd be concerned to hear the other person out thoroughly and get a sense of what kind of response they need. That's not totally absent in AskMe but it's not usually a big priority unless the asker is coming off a truly traumatic experience. In AskMe, people are much more apt to assume that the asker is looking for a reality check or for actual information, not for comfort or a bonding experience or just to vent. Sometimes people are posting for that kind of reason and I don't know, maybe people should try just to avoid answering those questions, or questions that look that way, because your answer may be useful but the asker is probably not in a place to find it so. (Although I have to say, some of the best advice I've gotten did not feel helpful at the time but eventually contributed to my making better decisions.)
posted by BibiRose at 8:12 AM on June 1, 2012


Same thing with links that go places that are unexpectedly blinky (bad news for people with epilepsy, totally simple to add a warning).

As someone with epilepsy, I'm just chiming in to say - oh I so very, very appreciate these warnings and have been burned a few more times than I'd like by "ZOMG TURN IT OFF TURN IT OFF CLOSE DOWN THE WINDOW CLOSE IT NOW" flashy flashy. I'm weirdly really happy to see "NSFEpileptics" even though it means "Well, I guess I'm not looking at that."
posted by sonika at 10:20 AM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also glad to hear that proposal stories were what the OP was looking for. I shared mine and as soon as I hit post, I wondered "Crap, I just made a perfectly good question all about me." As it turns out, it was actually useful! WIN!
posted by sonika at 10:31 AM on June 1, 2012


The Gooch: So, the OP acknowledges having framed her question poorly, essentially asking a different question than the one she was really hoping to get an answer to ("Please share your imperfect proposal stories"), yet those of us who thought we were answering in good-faith based on how the question actually was asked deserve to be "shamed" for being awful, cruel people for not having ESP? Sorry, that in itself is pretty non-empathetic.

Concur. It's...well, it's ridiculous.

She'd be well served to learn to ask for what she actually wants, instead of expecting people - and her intended husband! - to figure it out. That includes telling the poor guy that she wants the sugar-coated movie proposal, and she wants a do-over, if a "perfect" proposal is so important to her future happiness.

(You still have to ask for what you want once the ring is on the finger, because in 22 years of marriage, I've never noticed the rings imbuing either of us with telepathic abilities, so she might as well practice now.)
posted by MissySedai at 6:52 PM on June 1, 2012


What's always interesting about these situations to me is that I've asked multiple sensitive askmefi questions about very difficult topics and I have never gotten an answer that made me do more than think that someone misunderstood or read it wrong. The vast majority of the answers have been amazing, empathetic, sensitive, and genuinely helpful at the most difficult times in my life. So, I don't think there's a problem with the overall Askmefi community, at least not from where I'm sitting.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:44 PM on June 1, 2012


Oh but there was one cooking question I asked a long time ago that drove me completely nuts. So, huh. Whatever. It's Friday.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:45 PM on June 1, 2012


Yeah sometimes AskMe just gets it wrong, it's nothing to rend hair about. Though I'm still cheesed about that one time I asked for wacky stuff to do with a big box of free yarn that didn't involve A) knitting anything, or B) giving it away, and half the responses I got were stuff like, "Well, if you DO decide to give it away, donate it to this place..." or "Are you sure you don't want to knit? How about crocheting?"
posted by hermitosis at 8:01 AM on June 2, 2012


I know what's wrong with you that you don't want to knit and are so selfish you would deprive the needy of yarn. MEMAIL ME NOW.
posted by space_cookie at 10:57 AM on June 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Props to mods for responding to things like the contact form as promptly as they do, I'm sure the OP of the AskMe would have benefited from their response had she been able to receive it.

For those that have never used the contact form, the 4 or 5 times I've dropped them a line I've always gotten a helpful response back within 20 minutes or so and I was always glad I used the contact form afterward.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:04 AM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


you must construct additional pileons
posted by cupcake1337 at 7:26 PM on June 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not sure if this was linked inthread before, but Choire has an opinion.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:50 AM on June 6, 2012


Yes it was linked in the thread before.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:42 AM on June 6, 2012


Whoops.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:54 PM on June 6, 2012


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