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Why I Am Against (Too Much) Trigger Warnings -- An Issue of Proportions

Updated: 6 days ago


A noble swordsman in a field of bubbles.


Trigger Warnings: A Double-Edged Sword


Trigger warnings are perhaps the finest attempt by people to try to avoid the inevitability of eventually becoming upset whenever they are exposed to the external world. That excludes people who suffer from PTSD, as they are a very important exception. The disturbance of their past haunts them even in the form of words.


So, I intend to purify Philosocom from common triggers, just for that demographic alone. The word "R***" has either ceonsored or removed completely. For any other such common word, please let me know at mrtomasio@philosocom.com.


Anyways, outside of PTSD victims, as we become more and more sensitive, we might also become afraid of being offended by people and their statements, as we prioritize comfort over discomfort, easiness over difficulty, and so on. In other words, one could say for sure that trigger warnings usually come from two fears:


  1. The fear of the reader to be upset over something beyond their control, and

  2. The fear of the content provider to have their reputation damaged by their audience's dissatisfaction with the lack of sensitivity within the consumed content (AKA, being "cancelled").

However, I believe that trigger warnings are problematic, outside special occasions that lead to regression and very unusual emotional behaviors. For example, the real name of a person I call Chen, used to make me vomit for a few years. My physican told me it was only mental, not medical.


I wouldn't say that people actively search for a reason to be offended, but rather they are too uncomfortable dealing with being upset for whatever reason they had found to be offended. If someone offers us to "grow up", it does not have to be taken as an insult, and we don't have, usually, to react intensively to it.


Another example, people can be offended by compliments, even though the original intention was sincerely good. Does this mean that we have to put trigger warnings on everything, including positive things? That would be problematic to implement, because it would mean that trigger warnings are not as important as they are if we use them for everything we publish. That's because when it becomes too frequent, it becomes too granted as well, thus losing its original value.


The Thin Line Between Sensitivity and Censorship


Trigger warnings also create another problem, which is the threat to free speech and even academic freedom. Free speech, of course, goes beyond the right to express yourself, but also entails your right to choose how to express your words. It also allows you to not say anything at all, like when given the right to remain silent.


If there were a state where you were required to use trigger warnings every time you said something mildly uncomfortable, you would be basically limiting your ability to communicate just because there are some people, who do not have PTSD or something similar, are not resilient enough to cope with their own discomfort. That's especially when your words had no intention whatsoever to be offensive towards anyone.

We cannot always know what triggers the people we address or publish our work to. That would mean that the likelihood of using trigger warnings every time it deserves would be quite low. There may, however, be some words such as R*** that deserve trigger warnings. They also deserve being censored have synonyms found to it.


But what I'm talking here is about words that you don't really have any idea, that could trigger someone's unusual emotional reaction. There used to be a meme that goes "Sometimes, I dream about cheese" and in one video where this meme appeared, someone said they found it offensive because they were lactose-intolerant. See how an inoffensive meme on the internet could hurt at least one person. I guess we can agree that cheese and **** are not, objectively, at the same weight, correct? Discarding the objectivity in this would also discard the reason behind the strawman fallacy's existence.


Does that mean we should censor the word "cheese"?


This article was not intended to ridicule the sensitive. I used to be a very sensitive person, but I never needed a trigger warning simply because I accept the distinction between me and the world. Of course, also because I am not affected much by my traumas in terms of post-effects. I now understand better, regardless.


I know the world is flawed by default regardless of my efforts, so I just accept it as it is. Whenever I see an anti-Semitic joke or an incorrect use of the word "autism", or even when I'm respectfully being criticized, I remind myself that the disliked distinction between me and others should not bother me, as that bothering would not yield any productive results. No. It would just make me offended and no more, which is far from preferred.


I won't be surprised if people who were victims of anti-semitism will be triggered very severely by future expressions of it. But does that mean we should avoid discussing it entirely? Perhaps discussing this topic CAN help. Should we sacrifice debate for those with the relevant mental hardships?


I'm asking these questions seriously by the way.


Trigger warnings show something very problematic with the world today -- the fact that we are not prepared to live in coexistence with one another, because of how unprepared many of us are to be unsettled, even for a bit, by things we don't want to see, listen to, or read. If it wasn't the case, there wouldn't be such a dominant need to place trigger warnings. There might be a smaller need for it, yes, but not as big as nowadays.


This is why there aren't really trigger warnings on this site. Since the reception of content is beyond my control, and because I seek to eradicate general words that cause a PTSD/mental health reactions, it is not my responsibility to unintentionally cause minor unease.


Free Speech and Sensitivity in the Age of Trigger Warnings


No content creator can necessarily choose for someone to be offended or not, as much of being offended is another's choice, not ours. That is especially true if no offense was intended in the first place.


This is also why I highly recommend learning a method called CBT or cognitive behavior therapy, which is probably your best shot at tackling inner discomforts with the power of conscious thinking.


I believe the more we will be able to alter uncomfortable thoughts, caused by things and beings beyond our control, the more we can function in coexistence as a global society. Thus there may less of a need for the placements of trigger warnings in videos, articles, and other forms of communication and media.


The need exists for any content creator who has the empathy to care for his or her more-troubled readers. But what if they sometimes like to write about cheese, and one happened to be triggered by dairy products?


A Philosopher's Dilemma


Remember, I don't really desire or intend to offend anyone. If you believe that I do, and even confront me with this imaginary intention of mine, then at least try to bring evidence.


Why would it be proportionate for someone to send me an angry email because I wrote that I am addicted to coffee? It isn't proportionate, and there is no proportional reason to be triggered by my coffee addication.


Nonetheless, I might write trigger warnings, but keep them at minimum. This is a philosophy website. The truth is sometimes disturbing, so as a philosopher I am often conflicted between the insights I bring, and the comfort of my dear readers.


Either way, taking care of your mental state will forever remain your own responsibility, even if you decide to share it with me.


Mr. Nathan Lasher's Feedback


Why are people so triggered by people’s words and actions? That concept is ridiculous in my own mind. People get triggered and their thoughts are illogical. The one constant on this earth is that people are always doing actions.
Why take offense because you witnessed a person doing a particular [action]?. You can think about it this way: Next time it happens, take a moment to determine if what they did actually impacts you or not. 

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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