Posted by: Marie | November 2, 2009

(176) Reader Input: Trigger warnings

Post #176

Solicitation for Reader Input

I often see trigger warnings on various blogs . . . warnings that alert readers they are preparing to read something that might do them more harm than good. Being fairly new to the blogging scene, I have often wondered if I should be putting trigger warnings on some of my posts, or even on my blog as a whole. I have mixed feelings about this and I would like your input.

What is the purpose of a trigger warning? I mean, I generally understand the concept, but I don’t have a solid understanding of what the warnings are supposed to prevent.

What are the various types of warnings? Sexual abuse? Substance abuse? Religion? Eating?

How does one decide when a warning is appropriate? My entire blog is rather “raw”, so wouldn’t a reader know that he or she is likely to encounter triggering prose anywhere on my blog? Does that mean I should display a warning for my entire blog?

Should the warnings be more specific than “religious warning” or “alcohol use warning”? If so, what are some suggestions for the wording?

Do you use warnings on your blog? If so, have you ever gotten negative feedback for doing so? Or, have you ever gotten negative feedback for not using them?

Can you provide specific examples of my writing that you feel should have been accompanied by warnings?

I really want to hear your thoughts!! Please send me your comments!

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  1. Marie –
    I do not put trigger warnings on my blog, although I have wondered the same thing. I’ve thought that since my “about” states that I am a CSA survivor, the reader is warned.

    But reading things usually doesn’t trigger me.


    • Hi, OLJ –

      I, too, find that reading what other people write doesn’t trigger me much . . . not any more than day-to-day exposures and my own day-to-day habits and thought processes do. So, getting triggered is not a problem for me — which is why I thought maybe I was not being sensitive to how my writing was affecting those who do get triggered more easily.

      Thanks for the great input — it is very helpful to me!

      – Marie

  2. Hi Marie,

    I guess the title of your blog is fair warning that you are dealing with your issues.

    On my blog any ‘warnings’ I give are usually within a post (it’s usually been because I’m dealing with issues of child abuse and/or sexual abuse).

    Like you maybe imply, I’m not sure what a trigger is (can’t it be anything?).

    I don’t think I’d ever put it on my blog – the stuff I cover is to diverse. Rarely at the beginning of a post.

    • Hi, Evan –

      I was thinking the same thing about my title and subtitle — that they do a pretty good job of providing fair warning. And, yes, I was implying that it is difficult to identify everything that might be a trigger (and to define the term “trigger”) . . . that was part of my challenge in figuring out if/when I should insert triggers.

      Actually, when you highlighted my blog in one of your posts a while back, you mentioned that some people might not want to go to my blog if they were dealing with their own issues . . . and that is really what got me thinking that maybe I needed some kinds of warning for the writing within my blog. But, I can see where someone clicking on a link in your blog might need to be warned about the destination of that link since they wouldn’t have any other warning before arriving on my blog.

      Thanks for the input — it is helpful to learn about your opinion.

      – Marie

  3. Trigger warnings come from a long time ago before blogs. It was when the discussions were all threaded discussions (like e-mail forums which preceded message forums we know now). It helped people navigate discussions by bypassing things which have specific triggers.

    But, now with blogs, people should know which blogs talk about which topics and how and people GO TO specific blogs… and so the trigger warning is not as pertinent.

    Make sense?

    • Hi, Paul –

      Ah! That does help a whole bunch with understanding the purpose and history of trigger warnings. It really helped answer my underlying questions . . . . thank you so much for the education!

      – Marie

  4. I agree that people will know the content of the blog they have chosen to read. We cannot possibly know all the triggers that everyone might have. Because of that, I never post a trigger warning. Everyone knows the kinds of things that happen to children to make them DID or cause them to experience PTSD or MDs.

    Personally, I cannot research child abuse or DID. It doesn’t trigger me, it makes me so depressed I can’t deal with my own reality. A trigger, to me means that something triggers an alter to take over. I think every one has their own idea of what triggers are – thus another reason I don’t post trigger warnings. I simply stop reading if something begins to upset me. I don’t think trigger warnings on your blog are necessary. You do a wonderful job, I also appreciate your honesty.

    • Hi, Ivory –

      You make great points about how a trigger can manifest so differently for each of us. I appreciate you weighing in on the necessity (or lack of necessity) of triggers. Your input is very valuable to me — I am often thinking specifically of you (and several other readers) when I publish posts . . . I really do want to be responsible with my writing — as well as honest.

      Thank you!

      – Marie

  5. I might be one of the minority here, but I am sometimes triggered by what I read. It doesn’t happen often, but it can happen to the point of flashbacks and self-injury. As a result, I’m incredibly careful about the blogs I read, and when I read them (i.e. personal responsibility).

    As Ivory said, we can’t know the triggers of each person, but I do place warnings on my blog when I mention anything too graphic. I also place some posts behind a password protection for the same reason. My blog is fairly “tame” in it’s strength of dealing with the issues – I still heavily intellectualise the issues, rather than look at them from raw emotion.

    In my case, the posts more likely to trigger are scattered through it, rather than the norm. But, if you clearly indicate the purpose of your blog, I don’t think the warnings are necessary if you consistently talk about the issues in the same way. This is how I would consider your blog – consistently talking about issues in a “raw” way.

    • Hi, castorgirl –

      It is good to hear from someone who has a bit of a different experience — I was hoping to get a balance of input, so it is good to hear from you.

      It also good to hear that you feel I have done an adequate job of fair warning. However, there are some future posts in the queue that do get a bit graphic. I had pretty much already decided to post warnings on them . . . and, now, after hearing from you, I will for sure do that — or maybe I’ll put the graphic version in a secondary page that can only be reached by proactively clicking on a link within a post (and put a warning adjacent to the link). What do you think of either of those options?

      – Marie

  6. This post did lead me to put a trigger warning on my own latest blog post. Although – it’s probably the first post that really needed a warning.


    • Hi, OLJ –

      I’m glad this discussion helped you know that it was appropriate to put a warning on your blog . . . it is great to hear other people’s input!

      – Marie

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