Recently, I became aware of a discussion happening online about trigger warnings. Basically, this is a disclaimer given (especially online) that something you are watching or reading may contain upsetting or offensive materials. You can see an online definition here.
The most familiar examples are movie and video game warnings.
However, more and more videos, books and articles now contain trigger warnings. Some professors are even using them in class. See Idea Channel’s video below for a discussion of trigger warnings in schools:
As someone who suffers from anxiety, I wanted to add my opinion here. Please keep in mind that I am only basing this post on my own experiences. I am no expert on media consumption or trigger warnings.
Some people have suggested that trigger warnings are a form of censorship; that they limit freedom of speech and open discussion. I don’t view it this way. My anxiety waxes and wains at different times. Trigger warnings allow me to protect myself. For example, if I am having a high anxiety day, I may head over to YouTube to watch some videos from my feed. My purpose is to watch some engaging content and maybe have a laugh, (note: most of my YouTube subscriptions fall under the comedy or education headings.)
So if I pop over to Laci Green’s Sex+ channel I can view this video:
However, at the beginning there is an annotation that reads, “This episode contains discussion of abuse and suicide.” I appreciate that warning because on days where I am feeling more anxious, I may not want to expose myself to these topics. After all, my viewing purpose that day is to feel less anxious and a full on discussion of these sensitive topics is not going to help. Instead, I may head over to Good Mythical Morning for some lighter fare:
Now, this is not to say that I won’t return to the Sex+ video later. I subscribe to Sex+ because I think Laci’s content is educational and I appreciate her message. I’ll just view her video on a day when I am feeling less anxious and more grounded. Incidentally, those are also the days when I am more open to learning new things and exposing myself to a variety of opinions.
So, do trigger warnings censor discussion? In my opinion, no. I like trigger warnings because they allow creators to show compassion for an audience that may be upset or unbalanced by some topics. Personally, I don’t use these warnings to avoid topics. I use them to gauge my viewing habits according to my anxiety level on a given day.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.