BY BRANDON MINIA
I’m going to open this with a discussion of Internet memes, but really what I want to talk about is much more serious, as you could probably already tell from the purposefully obnoxious title that I chose for this entry.
Internet memes have been a great and often positive way for the global community to bond together in a virtual space. From classics such as Rage Comics to more recent entries such as the Doge, the Internet has created a vast array of inside jokes that have allowed us all to get along with each other and share a common space.
There are times, however, when the jokes go too far.
Enter “triggered,” the latest meme to hit the web.
This one seems to be a retaliation against “social justice warriors,” the worst of whom are known for using the word “triggered” whenever a social justice grievance and the perceived ignorance about it makes one angry and offended. It’s a meme borne from this new (and quite honestly ridiculous) war between the aforementioned “social justice warriors” (sometimes shortened “sjws”) and the lowly and too-edgy-for-you “anti-sjws,” a war that has somehow become nuanced with the issue of free speech and censorship over the Internet, and one that people barely seem to realize is incredibly harmful to the mental health community.
Let us make one thing clear: to be “triggered” is not to be angry or offended.
It is not something you casually say when something makes you feel a certain type of way, nor is it something you say as a slapstick punchline whenever someone does something particularly outlandish or absurd.
If you are “triggered,” it means that an experience or environmental stimuli has given rise to certain feelings, emotions, memories, and experiences that are often associated with your mental illness. Maybe the smell of someone’s perfume reminds you of an abusive ex. Or the sound of an explosion brings back memories of a school shooting. Or maybe the sight of spiders puts you at risk for violent anxiety attacks. To be triggered is to enter an incredibly scary and dangerous state of mind where your body is trying to defend itself from the world, even when it’s not in any actual danger.
Now let me tell you why this “triggered” misuse bullshit needs to stop.
First of all, I understand that some people jokingly say “triggered,” not because they are purposefully insensitive to the plight of mentally ill individuals, but because they don’t realize what it really means to be triggered. Just like our casual use of mental illness as adjectives (eg. “This weather is so bipolar!”) people casually say “triggered” because it’s a word that has become so popular and widely used over the Internet. When you see it being used often, you feel like you understand the context of the word and how to appropriately use it, even though you are actually being incredibly insensitive.
But unless you are actually suffering from a mental health crisis that was actually triggered (yes, the appropriate use of it), you should never be telling people that you are triggered.
No, the discussion of a character in an anime that you don’t agree with did not “trigger” you. No, remembering a cringe-worthy memory of something you did during your scene kid years did not “trigger” you. And, no, someone saying something really offensive about your outfit is not “triggering” either.
It is by using the word “triggered” in such a casual fashion that we take away the seriousness of the plight of individuals who are actually suffering from a mental health crisis. No longer can we say, “this is very triggering” without either being laughed at for being too sensitive, or having our experiences downplayed as simply being uncomfortable.
When you casually use the word “triggered,” you are suggesting that the experiences of a rape victim survivor, a war veteran who suffers from PTSD, or a young student who suffers from a Generalized Anxiety Disorder are on the same level as you being angry at some dickhead driver for cutting you off on the road. Sure, that driver may be enough to incite a small bout of anxiety in you, but normally you are able to get over your anger for that driver if you choose to. A person suffering from a mental illness cannot willingly choose to rid themselves of their experiences.
I feel for anyone who can no longer say “this experience has really triggered my depression” without it feeling like some sort of comedic line. I also feel for anyone who legitimately asks for trigger warnings on media content they want to view, only to be ridiculed for being too childish or sensitive.
I cannot blame people for genuinely believing that triggers are killing free speech, especially when the word has been misused so widely in the context of social justice. Let’s be certain though: it’s not triggers that are killing free speech. It’s the ignorant assholes who think it’s okay to misuse the word “trigger” in place of something that offends or makes them angry. Individuals who may ask for a trigger warning for the sake of their mental well-being can no longer do so without the risk of some holier-than-thou blogger preaching their right to free speech.
In general, to anyone who casually uses the term, I hope you realize that while it might mean a spontaneous punch line, playful lamentation, or an expression of anger to you, to me it means legitimate and painful suffering.
It is absolutely deplorable that both the fight for free speech, as well as the Internet’s comedic relief over people fighting for free speech, has to come at the expense of us individuals who suffer from mental illness.
24OurMusic – http://www.24ourmusic.net/author/brandon/