8 votes

What if trigger warnings don’t work?

6 comments

  1. [3]
    mtset
    Link
    It is worth noting that the Bellet study (mentioned, but not linked, in the article) studied perhaps the worst implementation of trigger warnings I have ever seen. Rather than the practices you...
    • Exemplary

    It is worth noting that the Bellet study (mentioned, but not linked, in the article) studied perhaps the worst implementation of trigger warnings I have ever seen.

    Rather than the practices you might normally see online - or that Gersen describes in the article - in which content are marked with "tw: sexual assault" or "tw: disordered eating, depression", pieces of content were simply marked with a blanket "this might upset you" warning.

    [P]articipants read another series of 10 passages in random order. Five were neutral, and the other five were markedly distressing. In the trigger warning condition, each of the markedly distressing passages was preceded by a trigger warning screen which had to be acknowledged by clicking a radio button (TRIGGER WARNING: The passage you are about to read contains disturbing content and may trigger an anxiety response, especially in those who have a history of trauma.). The no warning condition participants viewed a screen that indicated they were about to view the next passage, which was also acknowledged by clicking a radio button. Participants rated the intensity of their anxiety responses along with the filler questions after each markedly distressing passage.

    In other words, the study did not actually study the thing Gersen is talking about in the article, and its conclusions are essentially useless in evaluating trigger warnings as actually applied in pretty much any instance I've ever heard of.

    Metacommentary This, frankly, strikes me as academically and intellectually dishonest. When @cloud_loud writes that

    all of this performative exaggerated stuff that is done isn't really helping anyone, and in fact can actually cause some harm.

    I am concerned, because that is a highly ideologically attractive position for a self-proclaimed ex-SJW, but is not actually supported by this evidence, or, apparently, by personal experience. When short and readable research claims to contradict common sense, it is best to read the study in question.

    This research came out in 2018 - about three years ago - and was widely lambasted at the time, and rightly so. The assertion that this "would have been really bad" to talk about is strange to me, because it was discussed, thoroughly, and the University of Chicago actually implemented a policy based on it.

    This research is not and was never censored or disregarded - it's just that it wasn't done well, and that would have been clear if the researchers had actually designed their study in concert with anyone who needed or regularly used content warnings as an accessibility tool.

    25 votes
    1. [2]
      cloud_loud
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I was extremely offline in 2018. So I wasn’t paying much attention to any of the discourse at the time. Plus, any circles I would have been in at the time probably wouldn’t have talked about it...

      I was extremely offline in 2018. So I wasn’t paying much attention to any of the discourse at the time.

      Plus, any circles I would have been in at the time probably wouldn’t have talked about it either. I’ve never hung around with academics. But I’ll take it that I probably should have taken a look at that study.

      2 votes
      1. mtset
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Wait a second. You say both: and: How do those two square with each other? I'm not trying to call you out or anything, I just don't really understand what you mean. It seems like you're saying...

        Wait a second. You say both:

        Four years ago, when I was first introduced to the social justice part of the internet, saying any of this would have been really bad.

        and:

        I was extremely offline in 2018. So I wasn’t paying much attention to any of the discourse at the time.

        How do those two square with each other? I'm not trying to call you out or anything, I just don't really understand what you mean. It seems like you're saying that you don't have a good picture of what social justice discourse was like on the internet in 2017/2018, but also that you know what would and wouldn't have been accepted in those spaces at that time.

        11 votes
  2. [3]
    cloud_loud
    (edited )
    Link
    Very interesting article. This article, along with this companion piece from Vox, are painting an interesting picture of the progressive part of the internet for the past ten or so years. That...

    Very interesting article. This article, along with this companion piece from Vox, are painting an interesting picture of the progressive part of the internet for the past ten or so years. That maybe all of this performative exaggerated stuff that is done isn't really helping anyone, and in fact can actually cause some harm.

    Four years ago, when I was first introduced to the social justice part of the internet, saying any of this would have been really bad.

    I wasn't against trigger warnings per se, but I was never a big proponent of them. Plus they sometimes got ridiculous like having trigger warnings for jumpscares and families being portrayed in a positive light in The Muppets.

    I studied English in college (I graduated last year) and I don't really remember a lot of trigger warnings. I had one class where we read Mark Twain and watched Birth of a Nation and the teacher said "yeah you're gonna encounter some racist stuff" and that was it. But this same teacher also said about other books "don't come to this text with a modern PC mindset, you can't moralize the text in that way." So maybe I just had a certain set of teachers that weren't that interested in these types of things.

    2 votes
    1. hamstergeddon
      Link Parent
      My take on this is that I've seen where trigger warnings are super helpful* so I don't really care if they're misused or overused elsewhere because they're easy enough to ignore. If people are...

      My take on this is that I've seen where trigger warnings are super helpful* so I don't really care if they're misused or overused elsewhere because they're easy enough to ignore. If people are becoming too desensitized to them due to misuse, then that's its own problem and worthy of discussion. But I usually see it framed as just lazy complaining about "wokeness" or an excuse to dunk on Millenials and Gen-Z.

      * - Where I saw them be incredibly helpful firsthand was on a support forum for anxiety disorders. Everyone had their triggers where reading about certain experiences from others could trigger anything ranging from mild anxiety to a full-blown panic attack. May seem a little ridiculous, but an anxious mind is very adept at going from 0 to 100 over "nothing". So for example, people with PTSD because of an abusive relationship would use those trigger warnings to avoid discussions that contained descriptions of abuse.

      9 votes
    2. Gaywallet
      Link Parent
      Was there a specific turning point for you? I've seen you repeatedly talking about this same issue you have with progressive individuals in just about any thread you can link to 'social justice'...
      • Exemplary

      maybe all of this performative exaggerated stuff that is done isn't really helping anyone, and in fact can actually cause some harm.

      Was there a specific turning point for you? I've seen you repeatedly talking about this same issue you have with progressive individuals in just about any thread you can link to 'social justice' or 'SJW', both words you use frequently. It seems like an important part of your identity and I'd like to understand better what is drawing you to comment in so many threads about all the perceived negatives you have experienced.

      16 votes