Triggers Within Media

By Gaby Cristancho

“TW// s3lf [email protected],”” “TW// [email protected] @[email protected],” “TW// ED,” and “TW// g0r3,” are all examples of the trigger warnings I have seen in videos containing sensitive topics. According to the National Coalition Against Censorship, trigger warnings are used to alert individuals who might have an unwanted experience from reappearing from the content online. 

However, lately, I have noticed trigger warnings have been shifted to a sick form of comedy. Mocking triggers are invalidating to people who need trigger warnings.

This is the scene after the creator jokes about almost dying to a TW//ED. (Photo by @z00tedandboot3d)

Recently, I saw a TikTok that said “pov you nearly lost your life to an ED (tw🚨),” then shows Ed Sheeran jumping on an edited picture of the creator. This is unacceptable because eating disorders are a type of mental illness, not something to be joked about. People actually lose their lives to eating disorders. Those suffering under the mental illness can feel as if their experience is being invalidated or poked at. 

Looking in the comments, I found the creator of the video suffers from an ED themselves. They know the struggles of EDs and are using humor as a coping mechanism, but that does not justify using “TW//Ed Sheeran” because trigger warnings are used for serious things and using it as a joke devalues the topic. 

Instead of seriously talking about the topic and spreading awareness, people will start talking about the joke, thus changing a serious conversation into a source of humor instead of information.  

Trigger warnings should only be used for serious topics as they can help protect people from serious reactions, which is why they should be used with the correct context. Using them for the purpose of a joke is not the correct way to use them, even if it is to lighten up a situation. If the content surrounding the trigger is a joke, then the trigger warning itself will also be seen as a joke. 

Making jokes out of trigger warnings is insensitive to viewers who may struggle with ED, self harm, sexual assault, etc. Therefore, trigger warnings must be treated seriously as they can prevent people from experiencing negative emotions, panic attacks and or vivid flashbacks. 

We all need to take a stand to end this revolting form of humor. We should bring trigger warnings back to their original purpose of warning people, not as this new way to make sick jokes.