Does Meta/Ask have a 'Trigger' etiquette for posts? August 9, 2012 2:18 AM   Subscribe

Is there a 'triggering' etiquette here? If so what is it, because I can't find any reference to tagging posts as 'triggering' on the FAQ.

Apologies for not seeing it if it is readily available in the F.A.Q., but I was just wondering if Metafilter and Askmetafilter have any kind of 'Triggering' etiquette that members follow (or should follow).

For those of you who don't know what a Trigger is, Wikipedia defines it thus:

A trauma trigger is an experience that triggers a traumatic memory in someone who has experienced trauma. A trigger is thus a troubling reminder of a traumatic event, although the trigger itself need not be frightening or traumatic.
Triggers can be quite diverse, appearing in the form of individual people, places, noises, images, smells, tastes, emotions, animals, films, scenes within films, dates of the year, tones of voice, body positions, bodily sensations, weather conditions, time factors, or combinations thereof. Triggers can be subtle and difficult to anticipate, and can sometimes exacerbate post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition in which trauma survivors cannot control the recurrence of emotional or physical symptoms, or of repressed memory. A trauma trigger may also be referred to as a trauma stimulus or a trauma stressor.
Full Wikipedia Link here for those that need it.

I know that some people consider Trigger warnings in and of themselves problematic because having a tag that says 'contains sexual assault' might in itself be Triggering. but I was just wondering if *some* warning is better than none in all circumstances - at least as far as Meta and Ask posts are concerned?

If this has already been hashed out in MeTa please provide a link, because I couldn't find previous discussions.

Please note that any time I placed a word in ' .. ' in this post it's to differentiate it from the colloquial meaning. I am not air-quoting anything. Also my grammar abilities suck today.

TLDR: I just want to know if site members follow any kind of 'Hey heads up this post might upset because of some graphic or upsetting content'

Eg a tag for NSFW but with more specificity, such as 'may contain assault' or 'features bad things happening to kittens' or 'depicts suicide'. Those are just examples off the top of my head.
posted by Faintdreams to Etiquette/Policy at 2:18 AM (136 comments total)

I'm not actually working right now, so I'm just going to answer very briefly, and let the rest of the mod team go into more detail when they wake up. We take this on a case by case basis, for the most part, and we don't use the term "trigger" because that's quite subjective and not even a fully understood term by everyone. The general policy is that Metafilter is definitely not a "safe space" in the sense that one will not ever encounter a post that is triggering or upsetting for them, but we will try to include a warning of some kind for the more disturbing or problematic posts that don't already include such an alert (and ultimately we would far prefer that posters be aware and add that themselves, when it's fairly clear that the content might be disturbing).

So we might add "NSFW," or "NSFW - Gore," or something like "Possibly disturbing content" or "graphic" (or some sort of epilepsy warning in some cases, like "Warning: Blinking lights!"), but we definitely don't have a comprehensive trigger warning policy, and have been very consistent in stating that we don't want to encourage people to think that everything is safe for them unless otherwise labeled. We don't vet posts or comments for these issues, and everything here should basically be considered potentially NSFW or disturbing, even if there isn't a warning.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:50 AM on August 9, 2012 [14 favorites]


In my experience, it is generally considered a polite thing to do, but is not mandatory.

Here is a good MeTa that covers some of the same ground.

/CEST (UTC+2) represent!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:13 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you to taz and the_man_of_twists_and_turns for the simple yet comprehensive answer above, and also the link above.
posted by Faintdreams at 3:26 AM on August 9, 2012


The word "trigger" used in this damned context is a hell of a trigger for me. Please knock it off.
posted by Decani at 4:42 AM on August 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


Warning: Trigger Image (includes Roy Rogers - safe for work and the wide open prairie)
posted by DWRoelands at 5:19 AM on August 9, 2012 [14 favorites]


Metafilter: May cause triggers.

Sorted.
posted by terrapin at 5:20 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


The word "trigger" used in this damned context is a hell of a trigger for me. Please knock it off.

Well, what would you rather call it? Seriously. Another word that conveys the same thing and is understood by everyone would be just as good.
posted by XMLicious at 5:22 AM on August 9, 2012


How the hell am I supposed to know what "triggers" someone? This seems like typical hand-wringing about issues over which others have no control.
posted by dfriedman at 5:41 AM on August 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


How the hell am I supposed to know what "triggers" someone?

How the hell are we supposed to know what is NSFW for someone if we don't work where they do?

You use your best judgement, that's how.
posted by ook at 5:46 AM on August 9, 2012 [49 favorites]


Some trigger-y things are probably pretty obvious, drfriedman. (I'm assuming here that you're asking in good faith.) Some stuff isn't. When presenting materials to a group of people you don't know, it's good to try to be polite, or at least to not go out of one's way to be an asshole.

On preview: what ook said.
posted by rtha at 5:49 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the original post: "Triggers can be quite diverse, appearing in the form of individual people, places, noises, images, smells, tastes, emotions, animals, films, scenes within films, dates of the year, tones of voice, body positions, bodily sensations, weather conditions, time factors, or combinations thereof..."

I think if we are discussing "best judgement" it would be easier to ask people who have suffered trauma to not use MetaFilter, and not expect thousands of users to walk on eggshells. Hence my comment above. It was framed in a snarky way, but there is truth to it.

Comparing this to NSFW work tag is apple to oranges. Most businesses can outline what they consider inappropriate for work: sex, nudity, even politics. But if ANYTHING can be considered a trigger to someone I don't see how it should be up to the members posting to use their best judgement unless one is proposing that every post (and comment?) be labeled as a potential trigger.
posted by terrapin at 5:54 AM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


How the hell am I supposed to know what "triggers" someone? This seems like typical hand-wringing about issues over which others have no control.

I used to think like that but have come around to the idea that they can sometimes be useful. There was a really excellent link the other day to an interview with an ex-Olympic swimmer that discussed what drove her to compete so hard and what her life was like when her career came to and end. In the middle of the article she vividly described her brutal rape. It was appropriate and importsnt to the article, but not it central theme; you wouldn't necessarily have been expecting that to crop up and if something similar had happened to you I think reading her account would bring up some bad memories. In such a case I think using the trigger warning phrase somewhere is probably useful. I mean, you're not deliberately trying to ruin someone's afternoon when you put an FPP up, you know?

In other cases, I think it's unnecessary; when the whole point of the link is talking about sexual assault then I think it's a bit overdone. And I'd be opposed to any effort to make them mandatory. But a little consideration for people's feelings is never out of place.
posted by Diablevert at 6:00 AM on August 9, 2012 [17 favorites]


Wouldn't a "trigger" warning only be necessary if the content of the post or comment was, in some manner misleading or not clear (intentionally or otherwise)?

"Here's an interesting article about sexual abuse." is pretty clear. "Here's an interesting article I found in the NYT." isn't clear.

And, I do agree with dfriedman, it really is impossible for anyone to anticipate what constitutes a "trigger" for a forum for a user base this large.

How about we just do a "if your FPP/comment/link isn't about kittens, puppies, or bunnies, don't make it obtuse or misleading" rule?
posted by HuronBob at 6:00 AM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


How the hell am I supposed to know what "triggers" someone? This seems like typical hand-wringing about issues over which others have no control.

Not being able to comprehensively prevent triggering is not an excuse for not understanding some common triggers like references or jokes around sexual assault, violence, war, other trauma, etc.

I don't get this "I can't control it perfectly so disengage" mentality when it comes to grey issues. Taking a moment to think about whether your comment or post contains a common trauma is not rocket science and might save someone a little grief. Nobody expects anyone to be perfect, but expecting them to put in a little effort? Not asking a lot.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 6:04 AM on August 9, 2012 [19 favorites]


I don't get this "I can't control it perfectly so disengage" mentality when it comes to grey issues.

Ditto. People here are generally pretty smart, so when they start to act really dumb (e.g. "I can't possibly know all the things, so I will act as if I know nothing at all!") it gets pretty annoying.
posted by rtha at 6:09 AM on August 9, 2012 [19 favorites]


I would think the whole need for a 'trigger' tag could largely be obviated by clearly written FPPs. If the description explains what the links are about, the reader should be able to make the adult decision for themselves whether to read on or not, because anyone could be triggered about any traumatic experience.

Conversely, trigger warnings are pointless where it is clear what the subject of the FPP is about. I recall seeing one FPP that said something like "Sexual Assault Survivors Discuss Experiences [Warning - Triggers]." What possible function did that tag serve? I think what aggravates some in the user base is that kind of use, where it appears almost as though labelling something with a "trigger warning" is actually a way of communicating ones truly progressive bona fides to everyone else, rather than actually serving a meaningful function.
posted by modernnomad at 6:11 AM on August 9, 2012 [22 favorites]


I dislike the lazy shorthand of just saying "triggers" -- triggers of what kind, for whom? But I'm strongly in support of adding descriptive warnings or labels to help people decide whether or not to click on a link. There are things I simply don't need to read about because they will make me angry or sad -- if I know that a link is going to be about animal abuse, I probably won't read it, for example. A "trigger" label doesn't help, but a "this article contains graphic descriptions of animal abuse and torture" does.

tl;dr: less laziness, more description, please.
posted by Forktine at 6:16 AM on August 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


When I see a trigger on your post
I know nobody can do me no harm.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:17 AM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm going to leap on my usual hobby horse and encourage everyone to say what their post is about on the front page. If it focuses on sexual assault, war, violence, recipes for doughnuts, tax code reform, fluffy kittens, or beautiful unique snowflakes, tell us, and people can decide whether to click or not. If you need goofy framing and ambiguous pullquotes to get people to read the article, perhaps it isn't worth posting it.

Or, you know, what modernnomad said.
posted by zamboni at 6:20 AM on August 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's a grey area, there is no perfect solution. Assume the best of people, but expect the worst.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:20 AM on August 9, 2012


"Warning: Trigger Image"

Trigger, please.
posted by Eideteker at 6:21 AM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Use of the phrase "trigger warning" is pretty rare here. What does seem to be pretty common is people using more spelled out descriptive warnings like "contains graphic descriptions / depictions of X". I think this is a lot more useful. Since it's more specific, it lets you know whether this something that might bother you.

(And mystery meat posts are poor practice anyway, triggers or no.)
posted by nangar at 6:31 AM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Agreed with Forktine. "Contains triggers" is about as useful a warning as "contains allergens", by itself, but adding in a bit of forewarning about potentially upsetting subject matter, as people typically do around here, is a very useful thing.
posted by Catseye at 6:32 AM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is this different from a butcher's box labeled "Contains Trigger"?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:37 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey, if you don't like the word "trigger" for some reason you don't have to use it. It's still nice to give people some warning if something that you're posting contains content that might be disturbing. You could just as easily say something like "Warning: contains detailed stories of child abuse" or "Be advised, this video is very violent". Nobody expects you to be able to cover ever possible case in which somebody might get hurt or offended, but I don't think it's too much to ask people to do the best that they can and try to be a little thoughtful when making posts regarding their potential to cause distress.

I find it sort of insulting to be honest when people set up this straw man of "man, those sissies are saying that I need to censor myself because some whiners might cry if I make a post about kittens because it might remind them of that time that their kitten got run over, what is the world coming to?" I get that nobody is saying exactly that and I'm being intentionally a little hyperbolic there to make my point, but honestly some of the complaints about requests to add trigger warnings to posts when it feels appropriate kind of give off that vibe to me. It makes the people who say those things look selfish and childish and we're supposed to be better than that here.
posted by Scientist at 6:38 AM on August 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


I think if we are discussing "best judgement" it would be easier to ask people who have suffered trauma to not use MetaFilter, and not expect thousands of users to walk on eggshells.

What if there are thousands of users who have suffered trauma? I mean, lots of people are walking around with various things in their heads, and, if, with a bit of care, we can warn some people of common problems, the way we do with stuff that might get them into trouble at work, what is the harm.

My own trigger story: And, let me say in advance, this is, I think, really mild. OK, I have had brain surgery to deal with a leaky blood vessel. It was a bit of a big deal for me -- I had someone saw a hole in my head and cut out a (tiny) piece of my brain, but not, you know, huge. I got through it and healed up.

A couple of years later, I was watching the second season of Six Feet Under *SPOILER* and there is a story arc with a character who discovers he has AVM -- basically the "large end" of the condition I had. And, after about two episodes of that plot, I found I couldn't watch it without getting all anxious and ill. It was really weird, because my own surgery hadn't bothered me that much, but, for some reason, the fictional depiction really bothered me on some deep level.

Now, I haven't had that reaction from other depictions of brain surgery or neurological distress or anything else, so I am not too concerned with another incident, but I am more sympathetic to people who have trigger for more common events, l(eg violence, gore, sexual violence). I don't think their discomfort should limit people's posting, and I don't think OPs should feel too bad if someone is like "Crap, if I had known there were snake photos, I would have never clicked! Aaaaah!" But I think it's nice to give warnings, assuming you think of it. Saying "just go away with your nasty trauma" is kind of not a helpful attitude for a community.....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:39 AM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Contains triggers" is about as useful a warning as "contains allergens"

"Produced in a facility that also processes nuts."
posted by octobersurprise at 6:43 AM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


How the hell am I supposed to know what "triggers" someone? This seems like typical hand-wringing about issues over which others have no control.

Trauma. Things that remind people of trauma that they have experienced will, sometimes, trigger them.

Now of course anything could trigger a memory of an individual's traumatic experience: it could be the rumble of a Camaro's muffler or the smell of a damn madeleine, and the rule isn't and won't ever be "don't mention anything that anyone ever has associated with a memory of trauma" because that would be stupid.

But there are things that would certainly remind people of trauma. Traumatic things. Being assaulted. Losing a child. Being in combat.

Here's the thing: I can't know whether the smell of earl grey tea will remind someone of being assaulted when they were a child, but I can be ... let's say somewhat more confident that talking about assaulting children will remind them. So I don't have to put a trigger warning on earl grey tea -- that's kind of an ordinary topic of conversation for them to come to peace with on their own -- but it might be considerate to let them know that they are going to encounter talk about assault if they keep reading.

And here's the thing: I don't have to not talk about assault. Saying "Warning: talk of assault ahead" is a pretty simple thing to do and hardly a price to pay to help keep people who might need it on an even keel. It gives people the opportunity to take a breath and decide for themselves, before they encounter the triggering thing, whether they want to participate.

I guess what I'm saying is, I really don't understand the objection. It's like, "do I have to say the whole 'may I please' 'thank you' 'you're quite welcome' thing every time I want to ask somebody for something? It's just such a drag." And maybe it is a drag and realistically no, you don't ever have to say "please" "thank you" "you're welcome", but doing so costs you almost nothing and makes the whole environment a little friendlier and nicer.
posted by gauche at 6:44 AM on August 9, 2012 [34 favorites]


The general top-down etiquette is that we don't use them and do not require their use. This varies somewhat from NSFW which we will actually add to a post if there is something that meets our NSFW definition, one of the few edits we'd make without consulting the poster. The same is not true for triggers. That said, many people choose on their own to add warnings and they're welcome to do that, but we're not considering this at a policy level.

We dislike gotcha posts or links in comments where something implied to be one thing turns out to be something else that is disturbing [heck, we even delete Rickrolls a lot of the time] and those will often get deleted or have a NSFW added on to them. Posts that are descriptive enough to explain that the content might be disturbing or contain nudity or blinkiness may have nothing else added.

We are sympathetic to people who have had traumatic experiences. We feel it's important to be clear that this is a lightly moderated site where content is moderated after-the-fact if at all and people need to be cautious and not consider this a safe space because we don't moderate it to that level.

From an etiquette level, personally, I feel that it's polite to

- keep graphic descriptions of violence and/or rape and/or abuse off of the front page [i.e. below the fold if you're putting it in a post, almost no post is improved by this level of provocative framing anyhow]
- similarly in AskMe, if you're describing some terrible situation, using the more-inside section gives people an option to read or not read
- we do not have any proscription against swearing, we're pretty much down on hate speech and even people using slurs in ironic ways will risk having their comments axed because it's a big community and people don't all get the joke
- no gotcha situations and no blind links to starving puppies or abused turtles just to prove a point about how terrible animal abuse is

Many people do this in AskMe of their own volition and I think it's a useful thing for people to do on a person-by-person basis. At a moderation level it's a quagmire [making a definition, being vigilant, arguing with people about what is and isn't triggering on a sitewide level] and we're happier trying to manage this on an etiquette basis instead of a hardline policy one. We should add something specifically to the FAQ about this, you're right.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:47 AM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


if ANYTHING can be considered a trigger to someone

Yeah, no. To clarify my overly-snippy post above (sorry) -- I'm not down with the "literally anything can be a trigger including the mere mention of the existence of triggers" thing; that's asking too much. If someone has PTSD that is triggered by something relatively non-obvious, that is sad for them, but they probably shouldn't be wandering around on the internet because it is not reasonable to expect everyone to cater their discussion to avoid whatever non-obvious thing triggers them. Ditto for someone who is so fragile that the mere mention of the existence of a traumatic thing is a problem for them (e.g. where a trigger warning itself would be a trigger.)

But it is totally fair to expect advance warning before being exposed to things that could reasonably be expected to bring up traumatic memories for a substantial number of people -- which is why I think the NSFW comparison is a fair one. People will differ on the degree to which something is SFW or not, but we all are conscious that the SFW spectrum exists and that one extreme of it is to be avoided or at least labeled -- we don't throw hardcore porn in people's faces without letting them know what's coming; it's just basic politeness. I also think it's just basic politeness to give advance notice for gore, violence, rape, etc etc -- which seems like a pretty uncontroversial thing to think, no?

Despite the wording of the Wikipedia article, I think very few people actually expect trigger warnings to cover literally every possible obscure or unique potential trigger (and that the few who do have that expectation are being unreasonable, because that is impossible.) And I've never seen anyone anywhere just say "warning contains triggers" without any specification of what kind of trigger, because that would just be stupid. I think most of the resistance to trigger warnings (here and elsewhere) is resistance to a strawman version of trigger warnings that does not really exist.

MeFi already does this pretty well, even though most of us don't tend to use the word "trigger". Which is fine. "Arachnophobes may want to skip this one" sort of thing. Great.
posted by ook at 6:49 AM on August 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Including a link to other users' profiles when mentioning their names in comments is strange, speaking of etiquette.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:07 AM on August 9, 2012


ook: "Arachnophobes may want to skip this one" sort of thing.

But that's a perfect example of why a properly described post doesn't need a warning. If spiders are a main part of a link, then unless someone is purposely trying to hide that fact from other users, I can't imagine a post description where someone needs to use an arachnophobe warning. And if someone is making a mystery meat post, then they're certainly not going to warn anyone anyway. As someone else pointed out above, if a post's description is "Here are some stories of abuse from Jerry Sandusky's victims.", then is there really a need for this "trigger" word or another warning beyond the obvious one that's been presented?
posted by gman at 7:12 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think in your example, starting a post or comment or link with "here are some stories of abuse..." serves the "trigger warning" purpose.
posted by gauche at 7:17 AM on August 9, 2012


Exactly. So take this post for example. Look at the first sentence, the title, the tags, and the URL itself. Is that trigger warning really necessary?
posted by gman at 7:24 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


gman: "Exactly. So take this post for example. Look at the first sentence, the title, the tags, and the URL itself. Is that trigger warning really necessary?"

Not really, but is it hurting anything? In that case, what the poster is saying is "this post doesn't just mention the potentially upsetting issue, but goes into a level of detail that could upset people who would otherwise be ok with a discussion of the topic in general." That's reasonably useful information.
posted by Karmakaze at 7:28 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm just thinking of the recent "read this Olympian's inspiring story!" post where it wasn't until you clicked through or read the more inside that you found out that part of the inspiring stuff was surviving an extensively described rape.

I'm sure the "walloped in the stomach with a lead pipe" effect was accidental, but I would have appreciated more of a heads-up.
posted by Egg Shen at 7:28 AM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Karmakaze: Not really, but is it hurting anything?

Not at all. What I and others are getting at is that it's not a lack of "trigger warnings", but a problem of poorly described posts.
posted by gman at 7:30 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think what aggravates some in the user base is that kind of use, where it appears almost as though labelling something with a "trigger warning" is actually a way of communicating ones truly progressive bona fides to everyone else, rather than actually serving a meaningful function.

This sounds like some people are objecting to... a poster being too considerate in trying to accommodate other people? Because they can tell in those cases that the "being considerate" isn't actually about "being considerate" but it's about "looking cool"?

Even if it were truly about "looking cool" in some cases, how is the end result of "trying to be considerate" a bad thing on the whole?
posted by flex at 7:33 AM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


I wrote this in another thread but I think it's good and relevant here:

his 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 7:34 AM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


gman: "Not at all. What I and others are getting at is that it's not a lack of "trigger warnings", but a problem of poorly described posts."

In this case, would you have preferred just "note: detailed/graphic discussion of said abuse" rather than using the trigger warning language?

I agree that in most cases, a well-described post obviates the need for explicit trigger warnings. But I also think that warnings themselves can be part of what makes a post well-described.
posted by Karmakaze at 7:39 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Flex, what I meant was that I don't think people who use the phrase "trigger warning" are at all trying to be considerate, because they tend to attach them to FPPs where they have already been considerate by not hiding discussions of rape or abuse behind mystery meat links. Thus, I think they are using the tag 'trigger' for another purpose, which is to demonstrate/communicate through the use of appropriate jargon a series of value commitments they have. This implicitly (in my own opinion only, of course) suggests that those who don't use 'trigger' labels don't share these same value commitments, which I find frustrating.

As an academic, I frequently am frustrated with colleagues who use particular phrases and jargon to circle the wagons or to reinforce their own position as arbiters of knowledge/morality. I don't think everyone on MeFi who uses 'trigger' labels is necessarily doing this, but I think some are. It's sort of the linguistic equivalent of Republicans who wear American flag pins. They're just communicating their own patriotism, but it can carry the implicit message that those who decline to wear such pins are somehow 'less patriotic', even if that message is never overtly stated.
posted by modernnomad at 7:41 AM on August 9, 2012 [23 favorites]


There are some relatively common experiences that you can assume someone in the room has suffered from or dealt with...

Yes, but we're not in a room, we're on a website that thousands of people from various different cultures connect to. Consideration is good, but it's unrealistic and unfair to expect people to accommodate the individual issues of folks.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:43 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


zamboni: I'm going to leap on my usual hobby horse and encourage everyone to say what their post is about on the front page. If it focuses on sexual assault, war, violence, recipes for doughnuts, tax code reform, fluffy kittens, or beautiful unique snowflakes, tell us, and people can decide whether to click or not. If you need goofy framing and ambiguous pullquotes to get people to read the article, perhaps it isn't worth posting it.

I agree with this, and speaking for myself, I have a strong preference for straightforward description over goofy framing and ambiguity.

Being descriptive is a win-win situation here. If you say it's about spiders, you'll get spider lovers (like me) and not archanophobes. If you say it has graphic courtroom testimony about a sexual assault case, I can make a choice about whether to read it or not. If you say the link has nudity, flash, or autoplay sound, I can choose how to view it.

gman: Exactly. So take this post for example. Look at the first sentence, the title, the tags, and the URL itself. Is that trigger warning really necessary?

Necessary? Probably not. Helpful? News reporting of sexual assault cases can range from minimal legal language ("John Doe was indicted on six counts of sexual assault on a minor yesterday...") to more graphic details about what, where, and how. Description about where a given article falls on that continuum is certainly welcome.

What language a post uses to communicate this is irrelevant to me. The phrase, "trigger warning" provides a useful shorthand that I'm reluctant to dismiss.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:47 AM on August 9, 2012


Brandon Blatcher: I think that having fully descriptive posts, along with indications that the linked content might be explicit and/or disturbing generally serves the needs of a large audience.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:51 AM on August 9, 2012


What it really boils down to is what we consider it polite to warn for. NSFW for nudity, graphic sexual content, extreme/graphic violence, discussion of sexual assault and related crimes, etc. are things that may require callouts, although a lot of posts that contain links to these things will warn off folks who are disturbed by them. A lot of people are triggered, disturbed, etc. by these things. It's nice to write a post that makes it clear when you link to them, or mention that there's something in the link if it's not obvious (e.g., Olympic story that contains a description of brutal rape, mentioned above). I don't care whether people use the phrase "trigger warning" or the word triggers or not.

I have a phobia. I'm afraid of hypodermic needles. I've been treated for this; I can take shots and have blood drawn, but it's a fucking ordeal for me and I've been known to faint from terror (this is better than having a panic attack and fighting the nurses, which is what I did as a child, before I was treated). I am affected by seeing images of hypodermic needles or graphic descriptions of medical procedures. I do not expect warnings for hypodermic needles or descriptions of medical procedures. I know this is a reasonably odd problem and it's my lookout. I really appreciate it when people label posts clearly so I can avoid posts that will upset me/set me off/etc.

On preview, tags are not always a help because people (including me) read in mobile where tags are not visible.
posted by immlass at 7:53 AM on August 9, 2012


Karmakaze: In this case, would you have preferred just "note: detailed/graphic discussion of said abuse" rather than using the trigger warning language?

I wouldn't have "preferred" anything because the expression "trigger warning" in someone's post doesn't cause me to not read their post, say, like someone who uses "special snowflake details inside" in their AskMe does. In the post I linked to above, there is no need for any sort of warning because it offers a very good description.

Karmakaze: But I also think that warnings themselves can be part of what makes a most well-described.

Yeah, sure. it's just totally fuckin' superfluous in many cases.

CBrachyrhynchos: Necessary? Probably not. Helpful? News reporting of sexual assault cases can range from minimal legal language ("John Doe was indicted on six counts of sexual assault on a minor yesterday...") to more graphic details about what, where, and how. Description about where a given article falls on that continuum is certainly welcome.

The title of the post: Philly sports columnist accused of child sex abuse
The first sentence: Bill Conlin, a Philadelphia Daily News sports columnist, retired abruptly yesterday after word leaked the the Philadelphia Inquirer was set to run a story in the next day's paper detailing allegations against him of child sexual abuse dating from the 1970s.
The Tags: conlin, sexabuse, philadelphia, paterno, childabuse
The URL: http://www.metafilter.com/110784/Philly-sports-columnist-accused-of-child-sex-abuse

Sorry, but if you are a victim of child abuse and if seeing or hearing about others suffering causes you to have a severely adverse reaction, there's far more than enough information there to serve as a warning to you.
posted by gman at 7:57 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, but we're not in a room, we're on a website that thousands of people from various different cultures connect to. Consideration is good, but it's unrealistic and unfair to expect people to accommodate the individual issues of folks.

If you had genuinely tried to understand my comment instead of seizing on the one phrase you could condescend to me about, you would have noted that I made a purposeful distinction between experiences that are relatively common and experiences that are idiosyncratic. You seem to be declaring something that affects a significant portion of the userbase (like sexual assault and suicide do) as "individual issues" because we're not literally sitting in the same room. Is that correct? Because it sounds arbitrary and illogical.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:58 AM on August 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


If you had genuinely tried to understand my comment instead of seizing on the one phrase you could condescend to me about, you would have noted that I made a purposeful distinction between experiences that are relatively common and experiences that are idiosyncratic.

Honestly not trying to condescend and I apologize if I came off that way. Obviously you and others understand we're not in a literal room, but I do think it's important that we don't continue to frame the site as a cozy little room. That was my only point.

You seem to be declaring something that affects a significant portion of the userbase (like sexual assault and suicide do) as "individual issues" because we're not literally sitting in the same room. Is that correct?

Of course they're individual issues, because people will react to them differently. Naturally, consideration is good, but ultimately people are responsible for their own feelings.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:07 AM on August 9, 2012


modernnomad, I can see your take on it. I don't think your average MeFite/person on the internet is thinking of phrasing/jargon on the level of an academic though. It seems more likely to me in those cases that someone is trying to be extra-careful (to use common phrasing or standards of the group they are in or the group they want to identify with, even if they over-do it in some people's opinion; or are trying to pre-emptively give extra description just-in-case in order to avoid making other people upset).

People have different priorities - some people do prefer more information given, and some people think it's obvious what a clear, thorough description is; MeFi has to accommodate a wide range of posting styles, but MeFi itself does not require this phrasing and the mods refuse to enforce it as a standard, so - I could flip this and say that people who complain about this loudly and dismissively every time it comes up, sometimes with hyperbolic examples, are doing that to signal their contrariness against what they perceive as the group norm. I don't know how this is resolvable if those people are going to see it as an irritating progressive-values signal and other people see it as a matter of being considerate. I wiil say I personally have the feeling that most things I have to say or to share would never satisfy a certain crowd anyway, so I'm not particularly concerned with trying to live up to their standard (and I'm absolutely sure that goes the other way as well).
posted by flex at 8:09 AM on August 9, 2012


PTSD is the new Asperger's.
posted by kafziel at 8:11 AM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Consideration is good, but it's unrealistic and unfair to expect people to accommodate the individual issues of folks.

Is it safe to assume that you'd acknowledge a wide range of individual issues people have vis-a-vis their work situations? Some people work in very locked-down places, some people work out on the open range, some people don't work at all. There's really no way to know for certain which people might get in trouble for clicking on something that shows pictures of naked people, and we expect that people will use their best judgement when clicking links when they're at work.

I don't know exactly what you're objecting to regarding trigger warnings/making it clear that the link goes to something disturbing. You've used the NSFW language on your own posts, even though you can't know how safe or un- it may be for any given individual who clicks. I don't see how this particular issue is all that different.
posted by rtha at 8:28 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, but if you are a victim of child abuse and if seeing or hearing about others suffering causes you to have a severely adverse reaction, there's far more than enough information there to serve as a warning to you.

Not really. In the sentence you quote in that comment, CBrachyrhynchos makes the point that there is a lot of nuance about how material is presented. Yeah, there are probably people who are going to react badly to any mention of, say, sexual assault. They probably have to take a great deal of care what they do and where they go on the internet. There are many more people who might feel comfortable reading an article titled "Philly sports columnist accused of child sex abuse," but be upset if the article contained graphic descriptions of child abuse. Your example gives no clue as to whether there will be a clinical "x was accused of y counts of child abuse" or something more harrowing. Is taking the time to write "Contains graphic descriptions of child abuse" so much work or such an infringement of style?
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:31 AM on August 9, 2012


I agree that using the phrase "Trigger warning" is annoyingly vague. If something is disturbing, say "disturbing". If something has nudity, say "nudity". If something has graphic violence or gore, say that. Same with sexual assault. I think if the post itself makes it clear that those topics are involved, a warning is unnecessary. But if the post is terse, a warning for that sort of thing is considerate.
posted by demiurge at 8:39 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


gman: The title of the post: Philly sports columnist accused of child sex abuse
The first sentence: Bill Conlin, a Philadelphia Daily News sports columnist, retired abruptly yesterday after word leaked the the Philadelphia Inquirer was set to run a story in the next day's paper detailing allegations against him of child sexual abuse dating from the 1970s.
The Tags: conlin, sexabuse, philadelphia, paterno, childabuse
The URL: http://www.metafilter.com/110784/Philly-sports-columnist-accused-of-child-sex-abuse


Tags, title, and URL (the latter two are the same) are not visible from the front page, which is where I'll make the decision on whether to click through.

But no, the first sentence doesn't provide me with enough detail. As I've already stated, there's a big difference between reading:

1: Typical coverage of a sex abuse case, which usually is limited to just the minimal details of the prosecution's initial press conference. At least for me, that usually doesn't make for "a bad day."

2: Graphic and detailed descriptions of sexual abuse from the perspective of survivors. Depending on what else is going on with my life, I may or may not be in a mood where I can read that without engaging in the mental root canal of reevaluating my own history of abuse.

In this case, "graphic and very sad accounts of familial abuse, shame, and silence" provides very welcome additional detail. Here, it seems your complaint isn't just with the words "trigger" and "warning," but with a full description of the linked article that describes not just the subject, but the level of detail about the subject, and hints about the perspective from which the article is framed.

To use a fuzzy analogy and step away from the issue of "trigger warnings." About half of the media (books, television, movies) I pay for is by virtue of being familiar with the people who produce it. The other half is informed by good reviews that give me a good idea about what I expect for my money.

Good newsfilter posts on metafilter provide the same kind of review function. They select something that's worth reading/watching, and they tell me why it's worth my time. Is it investigative journalism? Does it cover facts and perspectives missed by the usual wire sources? Is it investigative journalism? Is it a case of a formerly reticent person going on the record? These are things I'd like to see about a link before I click on it.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:51 AM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


And what if the word "trigger" triggers something because someone happens to be the victim of gun violence? I mean, fuck, if I'm commenting in a thread and I pull out a photo of myself with an AK because it's on-topic, I'm not going to label my comment with a trigger warning for those who may have been in a war.

Anyway, I never understand these MeTa's because the vast majority of the user base here doesn't even read these threads. Those who use such warnings will continue to do so, and those who don't almost always still won't. Nothing changes.
posted by gman at 8:58 AM on August 9, 2012


gman: " But that's a perfect example of why a properly described post doesn't need a warning. If spiders are a main part of a link, then unless someone is purposely trying to hide that fact from other users, I can't imagine a post description where someone needs to use an arachnophobe warning. And if someone is making a mystery meat post, then they're certainly not going to warn anyone anyway. As someone else pointed out above, if a post's description is "Here are some stories of abuse from Jerry Sandusky's victims.", then is there really a need for this "trigger" word or another warning beyond the obvious one that's been presented?"

See this post of mine. It is sometimes easier to put a warning in than describe the video.
posted by zarq at 9:00 AM on August 9, 2012


gman: "And what if the word "trigger" triggers something because someone happens to be the victim of gun violence? I mean, fuck, if I'm commenting in a thread and I pull out a photo of myself with an AK because it's on-topic, I'm not going to label my comment with a trigger warning for those who may have been in a war."

No one is expecting you to cover every circumstance to the point of absurdity, yes? People who have triggers generally understand that we can't avoid them completely online, and others shouldn't be required to accommodate every type of situation imaginable.
posted by zarq at 9:09 AM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I mean, fuck, if I'm commenting in a thread and I pull out a photo of myself with an AK because it's on-topic,

If it's on-topic because the thread is about weapons/war, then people who get freaked out by pictures of guns are probably already going to be skipping the thread, or at least that particular conversation in the thread. Not labeling the link with a trigger warning in that case doesn't make you an asshole.

Honest to god, I don't understand why this is so difficult. No one is being required to overthink every damn bean on the plate; people are being asked to be thoughtful about the way they post/link.
posted by rtha at 9:11 AM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


And my answer is unequivocally no. I will continue to write my own posts and comments with enough of a description as I see fit in order for a reasonable person to make a choice to look at or to avoid my contributions. The end. Have fun.
posted by gman at 9:13 AM on August 9, 2012


I will continue to write my own posts and comments with enough of a description as I see fit in order for a reasonable person to make a choice to look at or to avoid my contributions.

I think that's all anyone's really asking for. Why u mad?
posted by rtha at 9:15 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Because you used 'u' to replace the word 'you'!
posted by gman at 9:16 AM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't know exactly what you're objecting to regarding trigger warnings/making it clear that the link goes to something disturbing.

My comments in this thread have noted that the subject is a grey area, injected humor or objected to a metaphor that the young rope rider was using.


You've used the NSFW language on your own posts, even though you can't know how safe or un- it may be for any given individual who clicks. I don't see how this particular issue is all that different.

Because while I may be ok with a link and the person reading it may be ok with it, their workplace may not. Since there are instances of people being fired or reprimanded over this stupid issue, a warning that says "Heads up if you have jackass boss" is appropriate.

Thank you for trawling through my comment history.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:47 AM on August 9, 2012


people who get freaked out by pictures of guns are probably already going to be skipping the thread

WRT that specific example, I have anecdotally noticed the opposite tendency.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 9:50 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yesterday I learned my best friend, my dog Mickey, has cancer. So please add "trigger" tag to all posts about dogs, frisbees, Kongs, pets, cancer, blankets, and... well, I'll try to let you know more when I break down crying next time.
posted by terrapin at 9:51 AM on August 9, 2012


Brandon Blatcher: " Thank you for trawling through my comment history."

Unless a comment by rtha was deleted that I missed, she didn't. That link went to your FPP history.
posted by zarq at 9:54 AM on August 9, 2012


terrapin: " So please add "trigger" tag to all posts about"

In the last meta thread about this topic, Jessamyn posted this:
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 zarq at 9:55 AM on August 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


Unless a comment by rtha was deleted that I missed, she didn't. That link went to your FPP history.

Thanks for trawling through my post history!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:59 AM on August 9, 2012


Yeah, it's totally okay to just think the trigger warning thing is dumb or impractical and take that as a cue to just leave the thread alone if you've said your non-sarcastic piece already. There's not a policy issue at stake here—mefi policy has been and remains that trigger warnings are not expected or enforced—so maybe just skip the "ha, see, my contrived example is stupid" stuff and do something else?
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:01 AM on August 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Thanks for trawling through my post history!

I guess because I don't see a difference between being considerate of people in the context of them getting fired, and the context of them having a panic attack - because being considerate is not a thing in and of itself that is difficult - I wondered if you also objected to NSFW notations. I went to your posting history to see if you'd used it. I wasn't trying to gotcha.
posted by rtha at 10:05 AM on August 9, 2012


I guess because I don't see a difference between being considerate of people in the context of them getting fired, and the context of them having a panic attack - because being considerate is not a thing in and of itself that is difficult - I wondered if you also objected to NSFW notations.

It's a difference of opinion, where I think it's best that those who have survived trauma deal with the ramifications of that trauma on an individual level in this particular global setting vs how a benign link could directly lead to undeserved legal and financial ramifications.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:24 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: "Because while I may be ok with a link and the person reading it may be ok with it, their workplace may not. Since there are instances of people being fired or reprimanded over this stupid issue, a warning that says "Heads up if you have jackass boss" is appropriate. "

Because while I may be ok with a link, some non-majority but significant number of readers may not be. Since there are instances of people being hurt over being triggered, a warning that says, "heads up if you find this sort of thing upsetting" is appropriate.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:25 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I could flip this and say that people who complain about this loudly and dismissively every time it comes up, sometimes with hyperbolic examples, are doing that to signal their contrariness against what they perceive as the group norm.

I think it’s more that some are worried about it becoming a "I care more than others" arms race, as alluded to by modernnomad.
posted by bongo_x at 10:35 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


where I think it's best that those who have survived trauma deal with the ramifications of that trauma on an individual level in this particular global setting vs how a benign link could directly lead to undeserved legal and financial ramifications.

But both groups are best able to deal with this if they have a inkling, whether the inkling comes in the form of "NSFW - nekkidness" or "Explicit details about torture" or "Here is a very interesting article about and beautiful photographs of spiders." Doing so does not prevent (or compel) anyone from dealing with their particular issue on an individual basis, whether "dealing with" means therapy or getting a new job where they can go wherever they want on the internet.
posted by rtha at 10:57 AM on August 9, 2012


'Is this different from a butcher's box labeled "Contains Trigger"?'

You actin' mad triggerish.
posted by Eideteker at 10:59 AM on August 9, 2012


I think it’s more that some are worried about it becoming a "I care more than others" arms race, as alluded to by modernnomad.

That's a pretty uncharitable assumption of the motives of fellow MeFites. Are there manipulative and petty and sanctimonious people in the world? Sure. But I would rather not assume that someone who chooses to use the words "trigger warning" on MeFi is doing so in order to prove that they are so much better than everyone else.

Don't use "trigger warning" if you don't want to, but all this "oh no you'll cry when you see a kitten because your cat died once" bullshit is tiresome and diminishing to people who deal with actual trauma in their lives. Just don't use it. Do you need to mock everyone who does? If you truly stand behind the stance of "you're responsible for your own feelings and I can't be expected to care", then stop complaining about word choices that other people make that are not targeted for you.
posted by Phire at 11:07 AM on August 9, 2012 [17 favorites]


But I would rather not assume that someone who chooses to use the words "trigger warning" on MeFi is doing so in order to prove that they are so much better than everyone else.

But that's not who we're talking about. We're talking about people who use trigger warnings, boast about using trigger warnings, and excoriate the insensitivity of those who don't. And in that context, it's a much more reasonable interpretation.
posted by kafziel at 11:17 AM on August 9, 2012


I think it’s more that some are worried about it becoming a "I care more than others" arms race, as alluded to by modernnomad.

When I'm in a cynical mood, I like to think of that sort of thing as "Conspicuous Compassion" (That "trigger warning" is a relatively new phenomenon on MeFi, only becoming regularly used, AFAIK, around 2010-2011, maybe reinforces its perceived faddishness amongst its detractors). When I'm not in a cynical mood, I can understand where people are coming from on being mindful of others, hard to fault that, though I don't think it is fair to expect everyone to conform to a formal standard of mindfulness, and am glad to see the mods reinforce that it isn't mandatory.

That said, the expectation that posters should be mindful of readers' workplace standards is dumb; mystery-meat posts are much more rare than they used to be, probably due to complaints from the NSFWers, and regardless of whether content is triggering or NSFW, context is usually gleanable from the post description, comments, and tags (Tags don't appear on mobile though, correct?). I'm curious what would happen if, in the course of a conversation, someone made a possibly triggering comment in an FPP whose content and presentation were not.

When it comes to triggers, I wouldn't use the tag, but would try to make the FPP's context and content clear (Which is probably something every post should probably aspire to, regardless of subject matter). As for the NSFW, your job isn't my problem.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:18 AM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Fucking commas.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:19 AM on August 9, 2012


How Do They Work?
posted by gman at 11:20 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Trigger Warning - Not a safe zone.
posted by Ardiril at 11:43 AM on August 9, 2012


PTSD is the new Asperger's.

In the sense that we're learning more about its causes, getting a better (and earlier) sense of when to diagnose, and developing new ways to treat and manage the symptoms thereof, yes.
posted by catlet at 11:46 AM on August 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


i don't expect the world to be padded for my benefit. i expect to manage my own triggers and reactions to them. having said that, i don't understand people taking the piss and making up fake situations to, as far as i can tell, make fun of people who have gone through pretty horrific trauma. that sort of reaction makes me want to spend less time here. that makes me sad because i really like metafilter and i think it's generally a pretty considerate place.
posted by nadawi at 11:52 AM on August 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


That's a pretty uncharitable assumption of the motives of fellow MeFites.

but all this "oh no you'll cry when you see a kitten because your cat died once" bullshit is tiresome and diminishing

I’m having trouble reconciling this.
posted by bongo_x at 12:06 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I’m having trouble reconciling this.

I totally understand that point of view, but I'd say "Let it go."

Ultimately people have different views on this and we can all go back and forth over meaning or who's right, etc, etc. But that's probably just going to push people further apart, so there's not a lot to be gained from doing so.

Let's just call it a day, respect the differences and recognize everyone poops the same way.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:14 PM on August 9, 2012


recognize everyone poops the same way.

Are you watching me?
posted by bongo_x at 12:19 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Alvy Ampersand: "I'm curious what would happen if, in the course of a conversation, someone made a possibly triggering comment in an FPP whose content and presentation were not. "

I am almost certain that this has already happened many times already.
posted by Karmakaze at 12:46 PM on August 9, 2012


Yep. The answer is that pretty much nothing happens, nor should it.
posted by Justinian at 12:50 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's just call it a day, respect the differences and recognize everyone poops the same way.

I don't. My own stools, Sir, are gigantic and have no more odor than a hot biscuit.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:54 PM on August 9, 2012


I'm curious what would happen if, in the course of a conversation, someone made a possibly triggering comment in an FPP whose content and presentation were not.

It happens. If we think someone is being deliberately assholish or linking to something disturbing in a gotcha fashion we might delete it but otherwise we mostly leave this stuff alone. Even though the two situations aren't parallels, spoilers and triggers are often treated similarly here. Try to be conscientious. If we think you're just being a jerk about it (outside of MetaTalk) we might step in somehow.

We ask people to be mindful of the fact that there are other people who may not perceive and/or react to things in the same way they do. This goes both ways. Ultimately the "Don't be an asshole" general guideline we have here is what winds up guiding our responses in these situations.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:01 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


But that's not who we're talking about. We're talking about people who use trigger warnings, boast about using trigger warnings, and excoriate the insensitivity of those who don't. And in that context, it's a much more reasonable interpretation.

Who, specifically, are you talking about? This sounds like a strawperson to me.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:35 PM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I used to think like that but have come around to the idea that they can sometimes be useful. There was a really excellent link the other day to an interview with an ex-Olympic swimmer that discussed what drove her to compete so hard and what her life was like when her career came to and end. In the middle of the article she vividly described her brutal rape. It was appropriate and importsnt to the article, but not it central theme; you wouldn't necessarily have been expecting that to crop up and if something similar had happened to you I think reading her account would bring up some bad memories. In such a case I think using the trigger warning phrase somewhere is probably useful. I mean, you're not deliberately trying to ruin someone's afternoon when you put an FPP up, you know?

I'm just thinking of the recent "read this Olympian's inspiring story!" post where it wasn't until you clicked through or read the more inside that you found out that part of the inspiring stuff was surviving an extensively described rape.
I'm sure the "walloped in the stomach with a lead pipe" effect was accidental, but I would have appreciated more of a heads-up.


Personally, I think this is a brilliant example of how trigger warnings can be problematic. Nancy Hogshead-Makar structured the story of her life the way she did for a reason, and putting a "warning: contains graphic description of rape" tag up-front would have changed people's experience of the narrative entirely. I understand why it would be gut-punching for rape survivors to encounter a detailed description of rape right in the middle of a woman's otherwise-normal life story, but the scene was meant to be gut-punching for everyone... and is, unfortunately, the sort of thing many women encounter in the middle of their otherwise-normal life stories. Putting warnings on graphic descriptions of rape means that we can't effectively tell these kinds of stories -- stories which place rape in the actual context in which it occurs. I think gut-punching and truth-telling is an important function of narrative prose.

It's also worth noting that the below-the-fold on that post says "Nancy Hogshead-Makar talks about the beginning of her swimming career, the rape that derailed it, and competing in (and boycotting) the Olympics," so there was an indication that the article discussed rape.
posted by vorfeed at 1:40 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


vorfeed: "It's also worth noting that the below-the-fold on that post says "Nancy Hogshead-Makar talks about the beginning of her swimming career, the rape that derailed it, and competing in (and boycotting) the Olympics," so there was an indication that the article discussed rape."

I tend to think that above-the-fold warnings are more effective, as they alert people who might click a link without reading the comment thread.
posted by zarq at 2:42 PM on August 9, 2012


boast about using trigger warnings, and excoriate the insensitivity of those who don't.

I'm pretty thick today. If you could provide linked examples, I would consider it a great favor.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:53 PM on August 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


vorfeed: " Personally, I think this is a brilliant example of how trigger warnings can be problematic. Nancy Hogshead-Makar structured the story of her life the way she did for a reason, and putting a "warning: contains graphic description of rape" tag up-front would have changed people's experience of the narrative entirely. I understand why it would be gut-punching for rape survivors to encounter a detailed description of rape right in the middle of a woman's otherwise-normal life story, but the scene was meant to be gut-punching for everyone... and is, unfortunately, the sort of thing many women encounter in the middle of their otherwise-normal life stories. Putting warnings on graphic descriptions of rape means that we can't effectively tell these kinds of stories -- stories which place rape in the actual context in which it occurs. I think gut-punching and truth-telling is an important function of narrative prose."

I agree with you that ideally, rape presented in context is probably the most effective way for people to learn and understand. But at the same time, speaking purely from personal experience here, being re-immersed in one's traumatic memories of abuse or sexual assault is hell on earth and I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

It is impossible to live in modern culture and be wholly protected from such things. As I said above, people who have triggers know that they happen and are at times unavoidable. But I think there is a kindness to warning survivors that they may find a story profoundly disturbing. And in this particular case, I'd rather be kind than teach people a lesson. It's a different sort of idealism, perhaps.

I know I don't react the way most people do to depictions of rape. But I would like to think that even presented without any sort of shock value, normal people would still find them repulsive.
posted by zarq at 4:05 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


in this particular case, I'd rather be kind than teach people a lesson. It's a different sort of idealism, perhaps.

I totally hear where you are coming from, zarq, and don't totally disagree personally. I find this sort of stuff upsetting and occasionally ask cortex to check out a link that I am concerned will give me the heebie jeebies.

At the same time, I feel that having the word "rape" in this post (not just in the tags) makes it clear that there is going to be some sort of discussion of rape in the linked article and I feel that this is a decent balance between adding specific above-the-fold warnings and asking people to meet us partway and read the full post that they are clicking the links in. Specifically, I don't think it's in any way not kind to link to a story about rape, say that it's about rape and consider that you've given people fair warning. I hear what people are saying and genuinely empathize; at the same time I feel like some people have expectations that are not going to be met on a site with thousands of members. I do not agree that it's okay to say "But you SHOULD get gut punched by this" because what is one person's momentary gut punch is one person's PTSD-ruined day or week and that is why we are big on the "no gotchas" guideline.

This isn't really related to triggers per se, but just talking out loud in a "how much warning is appropriate" way. To make an analogy, if someone mentioned below-the-fold that links are NSFW in a short post, we assume people will see that. People who are both very sensitive to disturbing content and also not reading complete posts are possibly asking for something from the site that they will not be able to get. I'm aware that a lot of this discussion is just about etiquette and doesn't require a top down mod proclamation, but I feel that correctly setting expectations in a general way is an important part of the userbase talking about behaviors in a specific way.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:16 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


modernnomad: "Flex, what I meant was that I don't think people who use the phrase "trigger warning" are at all trying to be considerate, because they tend to attach them to FPPs where they have already been considerate by not hiding discussions of rape or abuse behind mystery meat links. Thus, I think they are using the tag 'trigger' for another purpose, which is to demonstrate/communicate through the use of appropriate jargon a series of value commitments they have. This implicitly (in my own opinion only, of course) suggests that those who don't use 'trigger' labels don't share these same value commitments, which I find frustrating.

As an academic, I frequently am frustrated with colleagues who use particular phrases and jargon to circle the wagons or to reinforce their own position as arbiters of knowledge/morality. I don't think everyone on MeFi who uses 'trigger' labels is necessarily doing this, but I think some are. It's sort of the linguistic equivalent of Republicans who wear American flag pins. They're just communicating their own patriotism, but it can carry the implicit message that those who decline to wear such pins are somehow 'less patriotic', even if that message is never overtly stated.
"

Hi. I am someone who is helped by trigger warnings, and I use them for myself and others because it is an accessibility tool to help me and others like me navigate and make greater use of blogs/internet/what-have you.

Also, as someone who is actually helped by trigger warnings-- which again, may I menid people are really nothing more than an accessibility feature for those with PTSD participating in online discussions-- can I also point out that co-opting trigger warnings to make jokes, especially for political discussions are a) pretty crappy and b) not helping?

I have seen a not-insignifigant amount of times people will in comments make jokes like "trigger warning: free republic" or "republicans" or the like. I'm a registered Democrat, but those sorts of jokes aren't actually helpful (maybe actually giving an idea, could you consider next time say, “death threats” “misogynistic slurs” or something) so ussing a trigger warning to make the point that the site is populated by douchebags or something is not cool. Think about making that point elsewhere instead of hijacking an important tool for other people’s safety. Using trigger warnings as part of a punchline or a sort of general stand in for "hey look, douchebaggery" is kind of like when people add an alt tag or image caption of "huge sack of crap" when it's actually a picture of Kim Kardashian or something-- that kind of hijacking of an accessibility feature really only can be funny to someone who doesn't actually need it.
posted by ShawnStruck at 11:50 PM on August 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


Personally, I think this is a brilliant example of how trigger warnings can be problematic.

Seems the other way around to me. A simple "trigger warning" would be enough for trauma survivors and would not mess up the flow of the narrative. On the other hand, being more detailed about the content as some are advocating would have given it away and messed up the structure of the story. So if story structure is important or you want to keep some surprises in a link (maybe so new people will experience it the way you did), then trigger warnings make more sense than giving away the content.
posted by Danila at 12:25 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, as someone who is actually helped by trigger warnings-- which again, may I menid people are really nothing more than an accessibility feature for those with PTSD participating in online discussions-- can I also point out that co-opting trigger warnings to make jokes, especially for political discussions are a) pretty crappy and b) not helping?

modernnomad wasn't making a joke. They were giving an example of a similar sort of signalling. Don't wear a flag pin? You're unpatriotic. (Remember the storm that ensued when Obama pointed out pins weren't actually patriotism?) Don't write 'trigger warning'? You're an inconsiderate dick.

Furthermore, modernnomad wasn't suggesting that one shouldn't provide adequate context or information to enable someone to decide whether to click a link. They were suggesting that when someone writes "warning: triggers", which is pretty much useless (though people do it), they're signalling that they're part of this group that cares about others in a way that those of us who would have written 'note: contains a graphic description of X' somehow don't.

(Yeah, I was a little disingenuous in my example. Writing 'X triggers' or 'triggers: X' is the not totally useless version of this phenomenon. I would, however, suggest that people tend to write 'triggers: X' without providing the degree of information they would have had they not used the word 'trigger'.)
posted by hoyland at 3:51 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I definitely was not using a trigger as a punchline, and never would -- that would be a total dick move, and I've no time for people who do that. Not sure if you meant to quote me or not, ShawnStruck, but if so, you've entirely misunderstood what I was writing.
posted by modernnomad at 4:08 AM on August 10, 2012


Side note (as I generally support the courtesy of descriptive warnings for brutal material on the front page and in comments) but I think using "TW" as a new shortcut for trigger warning, as in last night's Onion Sex House post, is particularly unhelpful and should not catch on. Just tell us what the content is, please.
posted by mediareport at 5:29 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


mediareport: I think using "TW" as a new shortcut for trigger warning, as in last night's Onion Sex House post, is particularly unhelpful and should not catch on.

"TW", "trigger warning", whatever, I have no idea whatsoever what the warning is even for in this particular case. Can someone please help me with this.
posted by gman at 5:37 AM on August 10, 2012


As an academic, I frequently am frustrated with colleagues who use particular phrases and jargon to circle the wagons or to reinforce their own position as arbiters of knowledge/morality. I don't think everyone on MeFi who uses 'trigger' labels is necessarily doing this, but I think some are. It's sort of the linguistic equivalent of Republicans who wear American flag pins. They're just communicating their own patriotism, but it can carry the implicit message that those who decline to wear such pins are somehow 'less patriotic', even if that message is never overtly stated.

This doesn't strike me as a joke, but it does strike me as generalizing from the particular - or, to be exact, generalizing from a different particular entirely. Some people who wear flag pins do so to convey the implicit message that others who do not are unpatriotic : some people who use trigger warnings do so to convey the implicit message that others who do not are unprogressive.

These things may map, but there's no reason why they have to. And, TBH, if they do I'm not sure it really matters very much. Some people use hammers to hit other people on the head, either through malice or ineptitude, but this does not invalidate the existence or use of hammers.

Funnily enough, I just came across a very similar behavior with the phrase "white knight" - I mean, I don't think there's anyone who uses that in good faith, but I suspect that many people who use it are not aware of their own bad faith. But it's based on the same idea - that people who indulge in behavior X (in this case, disagreeing on a topic related to women) must have ulterior motive Y (trying to get sex with women).

There's nothing to stop someone from looking at someone wearing a flag pin and thinking "wow, what a judgmental asshole", or looking at someone who adds trigger warnings and thinking "wow, what a holier-than-thou asshole". But I don't know if that's an argument against. It's just one person's emotional response to someone doing something they don't do.

In terms of practice, this seems to be a non-issue, though, because the mods have basically said what best practice is: if you are linking to something that is, in your judgement, potentially upsetting, make that clear, and don't quote the upsetting part above the fold. Users are free to make it clear using the language of trigger warnings, or by any other recognizable means - for example, titling a link "Actually, puppies are often mistreated", rather than "You're absolutely right, puppies have a great time" when linking to a graphic account of puppy mistreatment.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:38 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


This doesn't strike me as a joke, but it does strike me as generalizing from the particular - or, to be exact, generalizing from a different particular entirely. Some people who wear flag pins do so to convey the implicit message that others who do not are unpatriotic : some people who use trigger warnings do so to convey the implicit message that others who do not are unprogressive.

These things may map, but there's no reason why they have to.


OK, I'll leave it after this because this is sort of a derail from the point of the discussion, but I wasn't suggesting that there was an automatic map between the two, nor was I generalizing from the particular. I offered up the flagpin example only as an analogy when trying to clarify to someone my feelings about the use of jargon and how it can carry implicit messaging.
posted by modernnomad at 5:59 AM on August 10, 2012


Point taken. But I'm not sure it is a derail, TBH - the implicit message of that analogy is "if you use the phrase 'trigger warning', you run the risk that I (and implicitly others) will decide that you are using it in bad faith to put others down, and respond to you accordingly". That's possibly a useful thing for somebody who is wondering how to phrase their FPP or describe their link to know.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:11 AM on August 10, 2012


MetaTalk: a facility that also processes nuts.

Don't write 'trigger warning'? You're an inconsiderate dick.

I read this whole thread (again!) looking for someone's statement that could be interpreted this way. I didn't find one - could you link to an example? A lot of times I don't see things from other's people's perspective, and it has to be specifically pointed out to me.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:13 AM on August 10, 2012


I read this whole thread (again!) looking for someone's statement that could be interpreted this way.

I don't think someone did. It was the flippant version of
... when someone writes "warning: triggers", which is pretty much useless (though people do it), they're signalling that they're part of this group that cares about others in a way that those of us who would have written 'note: contains a graphic description of X' somehow don't.
(That said, maybe it's not the flippant version. No one says "Don't wear a flag pin? You're unpatriotic." either. They say "Why don't you want to show your patriotism?" And we're at comment number whatever and I don't think anyone has advocated the position that surprise disturbing content should be acceptable.)
posted by hoyland at 7:08 AM on August 10, 2012


And we're at comment number whatever and I don't think anyone has advocated the position that surprise disturbing content should be acceptable.

The rest of that thought being: Yet we've have multiple comments explaining why trigger warnings are polite or promote accessibility or whatever.
posted by hoyland at 7:10 AM on August 10, 2012


I have a phobia of being burned and seeing or hearing about burns. In high school, I passed out over 20 times in one day when my friend badly burned his leg on his motorcycle in my presence. Thanks to therapy, it's better than it was. I was driving a few months ago when NPR suddenly started a story with no warning about a prison somewhere that caught fire where many prisoners died. I don't know (and don't want to know) the details of that story. Since it caught me by surprise, I turned off the radio, pulled over to the shoulder of the expressway, put my car in park and greyed out almost to the point of syncope. After I recovered, I used the techniques I've learned to stay away from that part of my brain and drove the rest of the way home.

Since my problem is a pretty rare thing, I can't reasonably expect others to warn me that this may tangentially come up. I protect myself by never clicking on mystery meat links and avoiding threads that deal directly with the subject.

I was sexually abused as a child. Reading about it doesn't usually bother me as much, though I know it is hellish for many other victims. Since that is a more common trigger, as you call it, common courtesy calls for at least some warning. But it's not something that can be enforced with hard and fast rules. We discuss a wide range of topics here. Stories of rape, child and animal abuse are going to come up and bother a lot of people. An offhand remark about burning your finger while curling your hair is probably only going to bother me.

I'm off to do some deep-breathing now. This was more difficult to write than I thought it would be.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:20 AM on August 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


"TW", "trigger warning", whatever, I have no idea whatsoever what the warning is even for in this particular case. Can someone please help me with this.

Hard to say, actually. For folks who really don't respond well to dark humor coming out of abyssal misanthropy, perhaps. (I love that phrase so much; it resonates with the blasted cold cinder of my heart and I want to hug it.) There's a heaping helping of depictions of sexual dysfunctionality both outright and implied from sad to criminal. If anyone's felt like a starving prisoner in their own house, it might hit them wrong. (Or just been victimized by reality television, but I think that's all of America at this point, so it's probably not about that.)
posted by Drastic at 8:11 AM on August 10, 2012


I'd assumed it was that some people would consider the thing that happens in the first episode to be rape.

I think it's an overuse. We've already gotten from the description that it's a dark satire dealing with sex, and that things "get terrible" in it. I think that description would already be sufficient. What's added by the trigger warning?
posted by roll truck roll at 8:17 AM on August 10, 2012


Why are we having this fucking shitshow of a discussion again? We just had it, all the same people got to come in and make their shitty little jokes of "I'm triggered by trigger warnings LULZ" and the thread ends. Seriously. Just read the last one, it was plenty embarrassing and shameful enough.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:24 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like having a standardized label because people can scan for it and then read further to see whether it looks like something that might actually cause them to freak out or lose their jobs. I'd like to see "trigger warning" or "TW" or anything like that followed by a hint as to why you think it could be a trigger: "TW: rape" or "TW: child abuse" or "NSFW: bare breasts" or "NSFW: Tijuana donkey show". This would also add information for the rest of us and make posts less mystery meat. I sometimes use the "NSFW" label as a reason to see what's inside an otherwise unpromising post. "OK, it's looking like a post about actuaries, but NSFW actuaries? I have to see..."
posted by pracowity at 8:27 AM on August 10, 2012


>Don't write 'trigger warning'? You're an inconsiderate dick.

>>I read this whole thread (again!) looking for someone's statement that could be interpreted this way. I didn't find one - could you link to an example? A lot of times I don't see things from other's people's perspective, and it has to be spcifically pointed out to me.


I am not speculating on what the poster's meant by these comments, just providing a possible interpretation.

When presenting materials to a group of people you don't know, it's good to try to be polite, or at least to not go out of one's way to be an asshole.

This can be read as implying that not using a trigger warning is going out of one's way to be an asshole.

I get that nobody is saying exactly that and I'm being intentionally a little hyperbolic there to make my point, but honestly some of the complaints about requests to add trigger warnings to posts when it feels appropriate kind of give off that vibe to me. It makes the people who say those things look selfish and childish and we're supposed to be better than that here.

This comment seems to assume that people who are not clear on what needs to be trigger warned for are being jerks and asking in bad faith. Some of them maybe. Some of they may not. For example, they may have run across one of those places outside of Metafiler, where there is considerable pressure for people to add a trigger warnings if someone requests it, no matter what is for. Someone gets triggered by kittens, better add a trigger warning to the link to Cute Overload. That would never happen here, but it happens, so it should be kept it in mind.

Honest to god, I don't understand why this is so difficult. No one is being required to overthink every damn bean on the plate; people are being asked to be thoughtful about the way they post/link.

This comment does not seem to allow for the possibility that someone may have actually put a lot thought about whether to include a trigger warning and decided against it.

I guess because I don't see a difference between being considerate of people in the context of them getting fired, and the context of them having a panic attack - because being considerate is not a thing in and of itself that is difficult - I wondered if you also objected to NSFW notations.

This comment seems to imply that people who don't use trigger warnings inconsiderate.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:42 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


jessamyn: "I hear what people are saying and genuinely empathize; at the same time I feel like some people have expectations that are not going to be met on a site with thousands of members.

Oh, I agree. I think your current policy is a decent one: this isn't a safe place and there's no rule that says trigger warnings must be included but we certainly can if we like.

People who are both very sensitive to disturbing content and also not reading complete posts are possibly asking for something from the site that they will not be able to get.

*nod* Makes sense.

I just know that when I was a lurker, I often just clicked straight through to the content and didn't bother reading comment threads. So I try to keep that in mind when constructing posts. But I agree that we shouldn't be obligated to do so.
posted by zarq at 8:42 AM on August 10, 2012


Maybe trigger and NSFW warnings should be in the tags so you could avoid such posts with the "My MeFi" page.
posted by pracowity at 8:47 AM on August 10, 2012


lazaruslong: "Why are we having this fucking shitshow of a discussion again? We just had it,

In all seriousness, lots of Mefites don't use Meta at all, and many don't read this section of the site on a regular basis. And some of us, myself included, don't always read every thread. So sometimes multiple Meta threads do pop up on similar topics in a short time frame.

all the same people got to come in and make their shitty little jokes of "I'm triggered by trigger warnings LULZ" and the thread ends.

At least one of those jokes was deleted last night, by the way.

Conversations like this can inform folks who may not be aware of previous conversations. And they can allow folks to air grievances or concerns, who might not have had a chance to earlier. This thread has featured the usual suspects making the usual jokes. But it's also given the mod an opportunity to clarify site policy wrt trigger warnings, which some folks seem to not have understood.
posted by zarq at 8:50 AM on August 10, 2012


I guess because I don't see a difference between being considerate of people in the context of them getting fired, and the context of them having a panic attack

Not gonna lie, I am pretty bothered by the model of personal responsibility which draws absolutely no distinction between the amount of control you have over your own reactions to things and the amount of control you have over your boss. I think I have more control over (and responsibility for) my emotions than I do over my boss. These things are not the same, and my chief objection to trigger warnings and so on is that they often feel like a way of disavowing personal responsibility for your reaction to speech/text and shifting that burden onto the speaker, instead.

So I don't have to put a trigger warning on earl grey tea -- that's kind of an ordinary topic of conversation for them to come to peace with on their own

Why is "earl grey tea" something people have to come to peace with on their own, and assault/abuse/whatever you're trigger-warning about, not something that people have to come to peace with on their own? Don't get me wrong, I understand that there's no schedule or timeframe for coming to peace with something that awful, but at the same time, coming to peace with that seems a lot more important. Going through your life, angry at the world for every single thing that reminds you of your trauma - that's no way to live. Being sad or hurt because something triggered you? I'm really, truly sorry. Being angry because something lacked trigger warnings? That just doesn't seem healthy to me.

I should add: I am fine with folks who want to put trigger warnings on things and I think it certainly does qualify as considerate and polite behavior. I'm just, as I said, a little uncomfortable with the way discussions like this tend to get framed as reactions to speech being 100% the speaker's responsibility, 0% the listener's responsibility.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:51 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


hoyland: Don't write 'trigger warning'? You're an inconsiderate dick.

I'm not seeing that much of this here. In other communities? Perhaps. Here, I'm not certain.

hoyland: They were suggesting that when someone writes "warning: triggers", which is pretty much useless (though people do it), they're signalling that they're part of this group that cares about others in a way that those of us who would have written 'note: contains a graphic description of X' somehow don't.

It seems to me that people objecting to the word "trigger" in this context care more about that specific word than people like me who occasionally have "a bad day" in response to the news. I see little difference between, "note:", "trigger:", and "warning:". Somehow, focus keeps coming back on superficial frippery in spite of multiple people pointing out that the warning is in the description, not the use of a single word.

I also don't use metafilter in that way. I can't tell you who does and doesn't use the word "trigger." I can't tell you who does and does not provide additional detail that I would consider a warning. While I have a short list of people I dislike, that's usually limited to specific topics that I avoid.

running order squabble fest: Funnily enough, I just came across a very similar behavior with the phrase "white knight" - I mean, I don't think there's anyone who uses that in good faith, but I suspect that many people who use it are not aware of their own bad faith.

Well, perhaps in discussion of hypermodern chess openings.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:51 AM on August 10, 2012


Alekhine your thinking there.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:59 AM on August 10, 2012


Fair enough, zarq. I'm clearly too close to the issue to be calm about it, so I will just disengage. It is very hurtful to see the same shitty joke as last thread, by the same person, standing and collecting favorites, is all. Also frustrating to have participated in a difficult thread before, felt like some progress was made, and then have the same shit happen all over again with the same strawmen and offensively self-centered responses. Blech.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:13 AM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


This can be read as implying that not using a trigger warning is going out of one's way to be an asshole.

I guess? But what I actually meant was more along the lines of presenting something that links to pictures of something that can reasonably be assumed to be disturbing to a lot of people (e.g. pictures of children killed by bombs) in a way that obfuscates what it is.

I don't think that specifically using the "trigger warning" phrase should be mandatory, and I don't think it's always helpful, and I don't think that people who don't use it are assholes.

People who behave in assholish ways are assholes - like, if there were a sudden run of fpps where people were using "trigger warning" in snarky ways? That's asshole behavior.

The use of the NSFW tag/phrase in a post is culturally accepted here. Does anyone bug out and assume that people who use it are shaming those who don't, or are using it in ways to show off their greater sensitivity to people who might get fired if they click on the Wrong Thing at work?

Why assume that people who use "trigger warning" or "caution: contains gory photos" or some other phrase to indicate disturbing content are doing so in order to lord their awesome sensitivity over the rest of us? Makes no sense to me.

Not gonna lie, I am pretty bothered by the model of personal responsibility which draws absolutely no distinction between the amount of control you have over your own reactions to things and the amount of control you have over your boss. I think I have more control over (and responsibility for) my emotions than I do over my boss. These things are not the same, and my chief objection to trigger warnings and so on is that they often feel like a way of disavowing personal responsibility for your reaction to speech/text and shifting that burden onto the speaker, instead.

You don't have control over your boss/your work's internet policies. You have absolute control over what you choose to click on at work. If you're choosing to click links as they are presented on a site like metafilter or facebook, you are doing so at your own risk.
posted by rtha at 9:19 AM on August 10, 2012


mstokes650: "Not gonna lie, I am pretty bothered by the model of personal responsibility which draws absolutely no distinction between the amount of control you have over your own reactions to things and the amount of control you have over your boss. I think I have more control over (and responsibility for) my emotions than I do over my boss."

I think a lot of people have more control over who their boss is than over whether or not they have been, for example, molested as children. Nobody who has triggers woke up one morning and said "Hey, you know what's fun? Unexpected panic attacks! I should have more of those!"

It's great for you that you don't carry that kind of trauma. It's not so great to tell people who do that their problem is just that if they just had more self control, they wouldn't have these problems.

"Why is "earl grey tea" something people have to come to peace with on their own, and assault/abuse/whatever you're trigger-warning about, not something that people have to come to peace with on their own? "

Because "earl grey tea" is a pretty rare edge case, but assault and abuse are much more common.

Here's a less-charged example. When I plan a mean for a really large group, I generally try to make sure that there's a vegetarian entree and a low-sugar dessert because vegetarians and folks with diabetes/dieters make up a predictable enough segment of the population that I can expect a few to be around. Also, the availability of those things don't inconvenience the folks who don't need them. I do not eliminate every ingredient that anyone has been allergic to ever, because that gets untenable really quickly. Folks with less common restrictions just have to either speak up, or find their own workarounds.

"Going through your life, angry at the world for every single thing that reminds you of your trauma - that's no way to live. Being sad or hurt because something triggered you? I'm really, truly sorry. Being angry because something lacked trigger warnings? That just doesn't seem healthy to me.

I should add: I am fine with folks who want to put trigger warnings on things and I think it certainly does qualify as considerate and polite behavior. I'm just, as I said, a little uncomfortable with the way discussions like this tend to get framed as reactions to speech being 100% the speaker's responsibility, 0% the listener's responsibility."


This is a straw man. I have not seen anyone in any of these conversations going around "angry at the world" because of a lack of warnings, or even yelling at people who don't use them.

"It would be nice if people did this." != "Anyone who doesn't do this is a horrible person who needs to be punished."
posted by Karmakaze at 9:25 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


lazaruslong: "Fair enough, zarq. I'm clearly too close to the issue to be calm about it, so I will just disengage.

For whatever it's worth, I think you made some really valuable contributions in the last thread. But yeah, I totally understand your frustration.

It is very hurtful to see the same shitty joke as last thread, by the same person, standing and collecting favorites, is all.

I know. :(

But I sorta look at it this way: on any topic, it's impossible to win every argument. And of course, everyone has a right to speak here. So usually when I disagree with someone to such an extreme extent, I'd rather try and counter what they're saying with reason than let it stand unchallenged.

Also frustrating to have participated in a difficult thread before, felt like some progress was made, and then have the same shit happen all over again with the same strawmen and offensively self-centered responses. Blech."

Yeah. This comes up a LOT in boyzone threads. When you've made your case once, it's super frustrating to have to make the same damned case again and again and again. But each thread is a new discussion, often with many new participants. So there can be value in stating your opinion, even though it's frustrating to repeat yourself.
posted by zarq at 9:43 AM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thank you for being so calm and reasonable and staunch. This is why I won't really be good at persuasion on issues surround sexual assault. Just can't be calm enough to be rhetorically effective. I'm so glad and grateful that others are stronger than me in this regard.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:51 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


lazaruslong: "Thank you for being so calm and reasonable and staunch. "

Oh man, I'm SO not. Sometimes a comment catches me the wrong way and I blow up. Got into an argument in the last thread about this and had to leave the thread because I felt myself getting self-righteously pissed off. I've been trying really hard not to whip out the knives when I get angry. I'm not always successful, but still... trying. And even then, it can be difficult to judge what an appropriate level of emotion in a response should be.

You're not alone, is all I'm saying. Lots of us have difficulty with these topics. It took years for me to even try to discuss them rationally.

Just can't be calm enough to be rhetorically effective.

I think you usually do a damned good job.
posted by zarq at 10:14 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a great discussion. Okay, a little overdiscussed, but everyone shines his own light on things.

All I ask is, if you have a Trigger alert, you make sure that I know if you are talking about that stuffed horse in Victorville.
posted by mule98J at 11:22 AM on August 10, 2012


"It would be nice if people did this." != "Anyone who doesn't do this is a horrible person who needs to be punished."

True, but I for one am really, really uncomfortable with the idea that the way Nancy Hogshead-Makar structured her essay wasn't "nice" or "considerate" or "thoughtful" (or any number of other positive descriptors used in this thread). As zarq pointed out, there are different kinds of idealism at work, here, and the idea that everyone should use trigger-warnings suggests that one is positive and the other is negative. This is by no means a settled question within rape-survivor circles, nor in the wider social discussion about the benefits/drawbacks of "offensive" content.

Note that I think the mods' stance on this is just about perfect, so I'm not talking about them. I just want to point out that "everyone should be polite" is not the slam-dunk you might think it is, and may actually marginalize survivors and activists who don't want to "be polite" in that way.
posted by vorfeed at 11:38 AM on August 10, 2012


vorfeed: " True, but I for one am really, really uncomfortable with the idea that the way Nancy Hogshead-Makar structured her essay wasn't "nice" or "considerate" or "thoughtful" (or any number of other positive descriptors used in this thread).

My impression (and I could be wrong) is that no one here is criticizing the way Ms. Hogshead-Makar structured her own life story. They seem to be saying that the Metafilter post could have contained a warning that the essay it was linking to included a graphic, violent description of her rape.
posted by zarq at 3:01 PM on August 10, 2012


My impression (and I could be wrong) is that no one here is criticizing the way Ms. Hogshead-Makar structured her own life story. They seem to be saying that the Metafilter post could have contained a warning that the essay it was linking to included a graphic, violent description of her rape.

The mefi post did contain a warning that the essay mentioned rape. The deadspin article it links to, on the other hand, doesn't mention the word "rape" at any point before the scene in question. It just jumps right into the story. My line of thinking is this: if it's inconsiderate to link to such a story without a warning, how could it not be inconsiderate to present one without such a warning in the first place?
posted by vorfeed at 4:17 PM on August 10, 2012


"It would be nice if people did this." != "Anyone who doesn't do this is a horrible person who needs to be punished."

Absolutely agreed, but there can be weird dynamics at work in situations like this, ie: 'No one HAD to chip in $5 for Lydia's cake and presents before she went on maternity, but it would be nice if they had.' I hope that doesn't come over as trivializing people's attitudes here, but both scenarios have the same sort of social pressuring/inference/implication thing going on.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:44 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Guess we have to start adding a PSTD trigger warning to anything about childbirth: One in Three Post-Partum Women Suffers PTSD Symptoms After Giving Birth: Natural Births a Major Cause of Post-Traumatic Stress, Study Suggests. I'm sure 1/3 of 'mothers' is a large enough group to cater to.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:38 AM on August 11, 2012


*PTSD* even.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:39 AM on August 11, 2012


Apart from some of the stuff previously mentioned, my big problem with trigger warnings on metafilter is they give the impression of safeness in a non-safe space.

If people want to use them, I guess that's their right, but I'd hate to be the person who assumes something is not triggering because other posts have trigger warnings. I think that would be a betrayal.
posted by zoo at 12:49 AM on August 11, 2012


i would never assume and i'd never see it as a betrayal. but we can probably prop up enough strawmen to fill this whole space if it makes people feel warm and fuzzy.
posted by nadawi at 2:32 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


How's that a straw man?
posted by zoo at 6:35 AM on August 11, 2012




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