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Thyme

Trigger Warnings: Are we backwards?

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I've been thinking about triggers and how stressful I find some of my characters to play on sites that require trigger warnings because ... they just have so many potentially triggering features that I am not sure if I can catch them before they occur. 

 

And I suddenly wondered why do we not mark characters. In other words, if I have a character who is prone to TW: incest, rape, homophobia, racial slurs, child abuse, sexual abuse, why aren't we marking HIM as a potentially triggering item as opposed (or in addition to) thread events. 

 

Partly I'm wondering this because I have another character who is prone to panic attacks. I can't tell you at the beginning of a thread if he will have a panic attack, but when they are happening, they are happening and unless we end the thread we have now stumbled upon a triggering topic.

 

So I guess... what do you guys think about this idea? Would it make it easier for people who do have these kinds of sensitivities to be able to (give or take) black list characters who are just walking, talking triggers for them? Is there some advantage to specifically marking each and every thread this character goes into?


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As most know I'm not an advocate of marking triggers because I believe, in general, people should communicate and how am I supposed to know what does/doesn't trigger someone? I don't read minds.

 

I do like the idea as a different option but I think it should only be used for characters that do it every thread. A "possible" panic attack versus "has a panic attack every thread" are two completely different things and your panic attack character could get blacklisted from potentially good threads for the "possibility". I think that's why people prefer to do it on a per thread basis.

 

I don't think it's a bad idea to have maybe in your plotter and add a note to "discuss if you still want to thread but any of these things bother you".

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I've been pretty vocal about my dislike about trigger warnings in the past. See here and here.


In case you haven't seen those topics/don't have time... 

Spoiler


1- In usage it's often said that anything is a trigger. This results in there being too many potential triggers to be even remotely useful. It's impossible to warn for everything. Also leads to the problem of some triggers being deemed less important and people getting upset that their very specific trigger isn't used.  (Or, in other cases, people thinking the person is faking it. And that itself could cause problems for those who do have legitimate issues.)

 

2- Triggers are keyed to events and they are specific things like a scent or sound associated with it. Reading a word is unlikely to even bother the person because it doesn't have that same neural attachment the sound/smell would. 

 

3- Avoidance strategies, like trigger warnings, do not actually help because it trains the person to encounter slight negative situation and avoid, thus increasing resulting negative reactions in future situations. 

 

Plus, in general, from what I've seen happen in the roleplay community is people use trigger warnings as a general "ew, I don't like this". (I know there will always be that one person who says "but that's not how they're supposed to be used". Yeah, maybe they aren't supposed to be... But it's how they are used. So instead of being that person who has to say it, just save us the time and don't. )

 

 

So regarding marking characters? I think it's pointless. Any character at any time can have something that would be a trigger.  So called "safe" characters could be triggers. It's just a convoluted mess that is better to avoid. Instead I'd say to just talk with people and figure out what, if anything, to avoid writing.

 

It's my contention that like 90% of the issues in roleplay could be solved if people would actually communicate with each other instead of trying to read between the lines and/or assuming they know what someone is thinking. Especially since it will inevitably end with them misinterpreting and loads of hurt feelings all around. 

I've said it before, and I'll repeat it here... People are not psychic so don't presume they know what someone else mean or what they want. Don't rely on subtle hints or, what one might think to be, obvious clues. (Chances are they're not that obvious.) Just straight up ask/tell/discuss with them. Save everyone the hassle in the long run. 

 

I definitely second Isoldehn's view. If something starts bothering a person (or they get the feeling it might) then they need to stop reading. If they choose not to then the onus is on them if anything affects them. 

 

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I'd say that putting a general warning in the plotter would be a good idea. "Any thread with this character may include or mention x, y, z sensitive topics." I've done it with a handful of mine before, pretty much in the same way that I'd mark triggering content in an app if required. 


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For me personally? Marking a character with content warnings is more helpful. There are some character types that I simply can't write with or read (can't read your post if my vision is going spotty because of content!) Let's me know from the outset to not bother.

 

Besides, this shouldn't be a source of stress for you! It's always worth a shot to see if it alleviates that stress whilst still putting movie like content warnings out there.

 

But I also prefer a stronger emphasis on personal responsibility. Users should be (and given space to) making their limits clearly known, thus alerting potential partners that this person might not be a good fit for them because their limits are onerously restrictive for you.

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That is something I actually do. If a character deals with potentially triggering content, I put a TW disclaimer in their profile outlining just that and basically saying, "Bear this in mind if you choose to thread with this character, X and X subjects are certain to come up at some point. If you would prefer not to deal with these topics, don't pick this character!"

 

I think both are helpful. The thread markers are helpful for a separate reason--those topics could still potentially come up even if those things are not themes for my character, but just part of a plot. x3


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If I have a character that is prone to something (for example, a character prone to suicidal thoughts), I generally make a pretty clear mention of it in their shipper/plotter.  If I mention something about it in passing in a post, I consider that warning to be enough. If that character is going to spend the vast majority of a post talking about it, thinking about it, making any mention of acting on it, however, I'd probably put a warning on the top of the post. Just because it isn't like it takes me much more effort to do so. I mean, i just spent 20 minutes writing about it. What is an extra 5 seconds of "TW: Suicidal Thoughts or Actions" ?  

 

That said, I'd only do that for Heavy™ topics. Sexual crimes, suicide, gore, especially heinous and purposefully loaded language. I probably wouldn't do it for panic attacks. But, if I was writing with someone who said "Hey, would you mind marking your panic attack posts with a warning?" I'd say "Sure no problem" and just spend the extra 2 seconds to write "TW: Panic Attack" at the top before I hit the "Submit Reply" button. 

Edited by Bro

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Actually, here, Kit reminded me of it, I have a solution for all this nebulous hub-drub. It's based on this wild thing I think they used to call communication.

I named it the player limit section when I implemented it on my own sites. Somewhere in your players' profiles or just wherever works best, like maybe their plotter or app, they list out what they just flat cannot handle period, things they can handle but are picky about the execution of/who they play it with, and everyone knows upfront x or y thing is a potential problem for z player. I've even seen people use it for drawing lines in the sand for what they are okay with happening to their characters (some players are okay with characters getting killed, others aren't, for instance). Z player leaves threads that crop up with problematic subject matter in them, but other players are aware of these problems and know to avoid those subjects, and can either choose not to play with them to avoid incidentally upsetting them, or just keep certain characters away from them. Likewise for everyone else on the same board.

 

Happyhappy funtiems remains happyhappy funtiems without feeling like anyone's treading on thin ice, everyone knows where the line is with everyone else, yadda yadda, there we go. Steal it. Go on. It tried to take off and become a trend, once, and stopped. Come on RPG-I, save my sanity, steal my shit, you're my last hope. Is it stealing if I'm saying steal it? Rofl

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I mean, I just honestly assume everyone here is already aware communication is the key to pretty much anything.

 

But I know my games have a lot of readers and lurkers, players who don't just focus on their own threads but enjoy following the threads  of others. TWs are more for their benefit than anything else, because I assume players discuss comfort levels when they're threading together. (Plus we have a form to fill out where people can list what they are and aren't comfy with, and what are had limits.) It's a big thing that we follow the threads of players and characters we enjoy, though, so again...TWs are more for the benefit of the rest of the community, not just the people writing in their thread.

 

And honestly, I see a lot of boogeyman brought up whenever this subject crops up, but in the 20+ years I've been RPing, not once have I ever had a problem, on my games or others, where someone got upset with me over something TW-related. I just tag my shit with broad tags (sexual assault, gore, etc) and that has always seemed to be enough. Takes two seconds, and if it helps someone out, then cool. No skin off my nose.


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I'm generally against any kind of nanny behavior, trigger warnings of any and all kinds being near the top of the list. It is counter productive. As far as actual research and scientific psychological study goes, "The Only Way Out is Through"/Exposure method is the only one that has been proven to have any kind of effect that encourages recovery. 

 

Among psychologists the anecdote of Nobel winner Isaac Bashevis-Singer is commonly referenced as a concise explanation of how this works - habituation: 
 

Quote

 

As the story goes after winning this prestigious award Bashevis-Singer is resting at home shortly after learning he's won. A reporter arrives to interview him and asks, "Mr. Bashevis-Singer, are you surprised? Are you happy?" 

"Of course," answers the man, "I am very surprised and happy." 

A short while later another reporter arrives for the same reason, "Mr. Bashevis- Singer, are you surprised? Are you happy?" 

To which the man replies, "How long can one remain surprised and happy?" 


 

 

 

 

Habituation is a scientific, neurological fact reality that cannot be changed, regardless of whether or not one "likes" the theory. In the simplest of terms, neural arousal/stimulation decreases with exposure to the stimuli - whether that stimuli is positive or negative. The Familiar is Boring. 

 

It is widely known in the field that avoiding sources of anxiety, in fact, only increases that anxiety. The most lazy amount of research will confirm this. Exposure is the only proven 'cure'. 

 

Another fact is that human beings, by default, seek the easy solution to all things. Habituation requires effort, effort is not the easy solution. However, acting offended to get out of effort is an easy solution. We see this reflected in daily news on city, state, national and international levels. 

 

This whole topic proves that. Its easier to get offended by something an individual chose to read and continue reading, as indicated by @isoldehn and @VirusZero, than it is to enact a little self efficacy. 

 

Furthermore there's a whole other level regarding RP specifically that has only barely been addressed here: 

 

On 10/12/2018 at 12:14 PM, Morrigan said:

do like the idea as a different option but I think it should only be used for characters that do it every thread. A "possible" panic attack versus "has a panic attack every thread" are two completely different things and your panic attack character could get blacklisted from potentially good threads for the "possibility". I think that's why people prefer to do it on a per thread basis.

 

Marking a character as a trigger in general can not only deprive of great experience, it can be game breaking in a lot of cases. Let's take a highly common scenario as an example. 

 

Faction A vs Faction B, in a scenario where the final battle is inevitably going to come down between Character A and Character B. 

 

What happens if it turns out that the handler of  Character A finds Character B "triggering" and then refuses to thread with that character to end the plot? Should the whole site plot just be left in limbo, with no consideration to everyone else involved?

 

One might argue that Character A loses by default - but come on, most of us have at least 5 years RP experience under our belt. We know that isn't how it goes down. It turns into "but that's not fair because my feelings" - i.e., just one more easy cop out over the hard choice. 

 

At least per-thread marking avoids that potential for even larger trouble, so if I had  to choose then I'd lean with per-thread because it creates less problem. 

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When it comes to exposure therapy, it is done with a licensed professional in a controlled environment, with the consent of the patient, and after sussing out that it may be an effective treatment for that patient.

 

RP is...none of those things. And it's also kind of crappy to put blame on the sufferer, because in this climate not everyone can even afford therapy.

 

Another user elsewhere used an analogy I think was pretty effective. TWs are like wheelchair ramps, a tool to make a space accessible for more people. Like, we can argue 'til the cows come home that people should just get physical therapy and use the stairs like everyone else, but that's not realistic, and none of us are physical therapists. (If we were, we would know such a statement is ridiculous in the first place.) We can't dish out therapy to people. We don't know if they're undergoing therapy already, or what stage they are in their therapy, or if they'll ever be able to walk even with therapy, or if they can even afford it. All we can do is provide them a tool, a wheelchair ramp, to join us in the meantime. And if we don't wanna provide it? (And assume ADA isn't a thing in this analogy. xD) Then we don't have to provide it, while realizing we are making our space inaccessible to a group of people.

 

Which, I mean, in RP land that's okay. Not every game is for every person, whether it be lack of/presence of TWs, PBs, Apps, whatever.

 

But TWs are just a tool. They're like wheelchair ramps. They make a space accessible to people it may not have otherwise been accessible for.

 

If you're okay with your space being inaccessible to that group, then you do you.

 

But basically, debating whether they are or aren't effective/necessary is pointless when a group is saying outright that, for them, they are necessary. So you just gotta be okay with not including them, *shrug*

 

On the topic of exposure, though, TWs, for me, actually HELP me with that! 8D Because if I see a TW for something triggery for me, I can make an informed decision about whether or not I'm okay reading it. And often I go ahead and decide, yup, I am, and I go read the thing. The warning is nice preparation, and it lets me face my demons on my terms.

 

Contrary to popular belief, this isn't unusual for people with TWs. We often DO choose to expose ourselves to our triggers. This is no different from going to a therapist with the understanding that they are going to expose me to my triggers. I'm still doing it on my terms.

 

Quote

 


What happens if it turns out that the handler of  Character A finds Character B "triggering" and then refuses to thread with that character to end the plot? Should the whole site plot just be left in limbo, with no consideration to everyone else involved?

 

One might argue that Character A loses by default - but come on, most of us have at least 5 years RP experience under our belt. We know that isn't how it goes down. It turns into "but that's not fair because my feelings" - i.e., just one more easy cop out over the hard choice.

 

I find it hard to believe that Player A wouldn't have already figured this out long before this point and figured out a solution already. I've literally never seen an instance of anything like this. xD But the crowd I run with tends to be a bunch of mature adults, so...I honestly can't even wrap my head around such a scenario ever getting to this point.

 

But assuming this happens, I'd imagine it would come down to admin intervention and figuring things out OOCly.

 

We can crow out "what ifs" all day--like I said, there are a lot of boogeymen when it comes to this topic, but I honestly have never actually witnessed it in reality.

 

TL;DR

Once again, your game, your choice, there's no true right or wrong answer here. But I know I put content warnings in the profiles of my problematic/triggery characters, and it's worked fine for me (and the others on my games who do so) without any doomsday scenarios so far in 18 years.

Edited by Viscount Rhi-Rhi
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I'm am more of the mind that I don't care, as a member, whether they are utilized or not. As an admin, I treat them as just something nice to do for readers who aren't part of the plot-dialog I already expect there to be between all participants. I don't see who else content tags could possibly be for. If you are communicating, you should already have talked about comfort zones and know -generally- what to expect, and even if things take a shifty turn the person can give a shout like, "Taz got a little carried away, just a warning :P". I imagine with communication members can self moderate the type of content in threads they participate in. So that leaves other members who are reading and guests/lurkers. 

 

I've never really understood the 'I will not join a site the uses them' mentality. Rhi-rhi's wheelchair ramp analogy is fantastic. I've never turned my nose up on a store that made use of ramps if that makes sense. Why the abhorrence? Especially when it takes no time at all to mark something, and sites who do use them put serious thought into it as well. Because they want to make it convenient for everyone if they can. I will say there is an exhausting way to do it, which involves providing a laundry list of tags that is impossibly long and then requiring tags.  

 

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I hate the idea of making something a chore for everyone. So I only have three content tags that serve as a warning. They are fairly general and no I don't take the time to explicitly list all possible triggers or what I would consider deserving of a tag. I don't even outright require it. I request it and just tell everyone to use their best judgement. No we are not mind readers. And no we could never begin to know all possible triggers. Its the effort and thought that counts. My members understand that it is just something nice to do for someone. I went through and removed the emoji list for post icons and substituted my own tags (you can do this in macro, you just have to manually add them). So it is integrated into the post form and it takes all of two seconds to select one. 

 

We have had zero issues. Only inquiries and concerns of 'what warrants a bloody-mess tag?' sort... to which my answer is always: "Use your best judgement. If in doubt, mark it." Doing this also is a means of tagging a singular post within a thread without marking the entire thread. "Possible Trigger" is new for our site, and I only plan to encourage members to use it how they see fit and to expand on it if they feel the need. 

 

 

I realized I said NOTHING about character tags. Eh... it could be helpful. But I think dialog between members would make it necessary.  And we also have a "rp limit" field in our profiles as well. :3

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