Trigger Warnings: Making Society More Fragile

Words: Thulasie Manoharan

Growing up the only warnings I had come across were the “PG” or “MA 15+” signs on the TV. But as of recent times the use of “Trigger Warnings” have made its way into reading materials, countless websites, from The Huffington Post to Times and even into class syllabi.

 A trigger warning, as defined by Google, says that a particular article, section or pages it links to contain information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors. The all-famous Urban Dictionary goes one step ahead and defines it as follows:

A phrase posted at the beginning of various posts, articles, or blogs. Its purpose is to warn weak minded people who are easily offended that they might find what is being posted offensive in some way due to its content, causing them to overreact or otherwise start acting like a dipshit. Popular on Reddit SRS or other places that social justice warriors like to hang out.
Trigger warnings are unnecessary 100% of the time due to the fact that people who are easily offended have no business randomly browsing the internet anyways. As a result of the phrases irrelevance, most opinions that start out with this phrase tend to be simplistic and dull since they were made by people ridiculous enough to think that the internet is supposed to cater to people who can’t take a joke.
— Urban Dictionary

Michael E. Miller, foreign affairs reporter for the Washington Post, says now the trigger warning “has become a proxy for broader issues such as political correctness, identity, politics, liberal arts education and sexual assault” meaning that society keeps placing warnings on basically everything these days. This situation has become so out of hand that Jenny Jarvie wrote in the New Republic “student leaders at the University Of California, Santa Barbara, passed a resolution urging officials to institute mandatory trigger warnings on class syllabi. Professors who present “content that may trigger Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” would be required to “issue advance alerts and allow student to skip those classes”.

Trigger warnings rooted from a gesture of sympathy and thoughtfulness, but its overuse in all situations have made it rather ironic, in the sense that our society needs to be protected from all the evil of life. What message are we trying to put out there? Are we saying that we are too weak that now we have to confide under the protection of trigger warnings? The 21st century was deemed as the century where more and more people are becoming open minded. But this debate over trigger warnings just begs to differ.

It is my belief that people will lose vital information when even study materials are being labelled with trigger warnings.  What many people fail to realize is that, this warning distorts the information that is being delivered. It attracts attention to the wrong direction and defeats the idea of the main subject matter entirely. By doing so, the world is just producing more and more people who are fragile and this leads only to solipsism. We have become open minded beings in a very protective, fragile society. What good does that bring us if we are not keen on taking leaps and expanding our horizons? As Jarvie goes on to say “Engaging with ideas involve risk, and slapping warnings on them only undermines the principal of the intellectual”. I stand by the adage that says “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”. Time heals everything and in the process we learn to mend ourselves in ways that make us better at life. Trigger warnings rob us from this mending process, like they say, you can’t always have too much of a good thing.