BCM312 Idea Blog

“How vital are trigger warnings in our ever evolving online world?”

For the duration of the semester in BCM312, I have chosen to investigate further the topic of trigger warnings, more specifically the role they play in our online world. In the past decade, there has been a serious insurgence in an individual’s values, beliefs and the simple fact that all these values should be respected and celebrated.

In terms of trigger warnings however, the values that I am talking about are not ones that need to be celebrated, but respected and acknowledged. This board reason is why I believe this topic would be so interesting and provide much depth of research for the proposed assignment in this class.

The deciding factor that pushed this topic upon me was actually provided during the first class of the semester when trigger warnings were being first discussed. A point was brought up that was actually a recount of a class in a fellow student first year of university. A movie was shown that was a part of the course and it displayed some content that hurt various students mentally and caused them various degrees of trauma. The interesting part of this was no trigger warning at all was provided prior to this by the tutor or the head lecturer. This gave me an insight into just how important trigger warnings are even in our education system. At this point in time, it is almost a basic right to have some warnings about anything that might offend or hurt a person before they view it, and I am astonished that it isn’t standard yet.

So, what do I want to learn more about as I go through this process? Well, as I have already stated, I am shocked that trigger warnings are not standard practise across all forms of media. You see examples of it sometimes on Facebook Videos, Instagram Videos and I have even noticed the increasingly popular TikTok has warnings before some videos where you almost have to push a button consenting to viewing the upcoming content. It’s not just social media platforms, television channels also use trigger warnings. An excellent example of this in action is the ABC. A lot of the programming scheduled on the channel is heavily focused around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and celebrating the first people of Australia and the surrounding region. In their respective cultures, seeing someone who has passed away is traumatising and offensive. According to a short article by the ACT Council for Social Services, in some indigenous cultures, there are very strict practises that prohibit them from seeing a deceased person after they have passed on. The ABC pride themselves on their diversity of programming and to still be able to celebrate this and respect cultural beliefs by providing an opportunity to avoid certain content is exactly why trigger warnings are so critical. So why are they not so widely used across other media platforms and also in the classroom? That’s what I want to find out.

The next question to reflect on is why is this question significant to research? Who does it matter to? Well, to reiterate what I have already stated, in our society, there is a huge movement to ensure everybody’s beliefs and values are recognised and respected. I think that more research into the significance of trigger warning in our everyday society will shed light and hopefully instigate change for the better.  

Lastly in the evaluation quest for this topic, obviously some preliminary background research needs to be conducted to evaluate if this topic is really even worth the time. Right off the bat, I stumbled across an excellent article that was discussing one of my key points in great detail, that being the role of trigger warnings in the classroom. The Greater Good Magazine published an article titled “The Trouble with Trigger Warnings” back in 2016 and it goes into detail about how trigger warnings can be effective in an educational setting and also if not utilised properly can actually damage educational opportunities. One clear definition that the article states is that there is a very clear difference between content warnings and trigger warnings however the two are often combined. Content Warnings warn the viewer of mature themes or challenging so they are not surprised when that content appears. Trigger Warnings are much more to do with mental health and psychological factors and this difference needs to be made abundantly clear. The article goes back and forth arguing why trigger warnings are important for people suffering with psychological disorders but also how exposure therapy can actually be a healthy healing process. There are so many factors at play here and it is very hard to say just how effective a trigger warning can be for any individual but for this project I will be talking in more broad terms.

The next piece of research was one that I looked for to purposefully make myself look at my research question from a different angle, an article that stated that trigger warnings had no use whatsoever. This would maybe start to make me think critically as to why they are not more widely used across all forms of media. The Association for Psychological Science realised an in-depth research paper, discussing why they were not effective. The main point that drew my attention was the fact that the avoidance and need for a trigger warning can actually make a person “see trauma as more a part of their central identity which can do irreversible damage”. A very interesting point that actually made a lot of sense.

So, as you can all see, this topic is rich with current and relevant information and facts that I’m sure on some level we have all experienced. By the time of the pitch the main question may have slightly changed to focus my research however I feel trigger warnings is a perfect topic for this project.

Reference list

Association For Psychological Science, 2020, ‘Trigger warnings fail to help and may even harm’, APS, viewed 19th March 2020.

Flynn, M. 2016, ‘The Trouble with Trigger Warnings’, The Greater Good Magazine, viewed 23rd March 2020

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/trouble_with_trigger_warnings

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