I recently received an email in which I was asked why I use content warnings, and why I think they're important. This is not the first time that this question has been asked and it certainly won't be the last. Often people think that including content warnings is pandering to people who get offended about anything. Where will it end is basically the gist of that statement. They think that content warnings are for 'overly sensitive' people; they think that if they don't need content warnings, no one should need them. This is probably an oversimplification of the anti-content warnings argument but I don't have the time/energy to go into them in depth.
I started using content warnings because of tumblr, yes. I also have been involved more in feminism, anti-racism, etc due to exposure to certain social justice movements on tumblr. Tumblr is not a bad thing. It has been an instructive force in my life, however I haven't really used it for anything but pictures of cats and plants in the last couple of years.
Content warnings are important because they help to create a safe space for people. Many people will have negative responses to things that can make navigating the 'real' world traumatic, emotionally draining and/or exhausting. The fact that we have the ability to make the internet a slightly safer place for people to navigate is not a bad thing. It's a fantastic thing. It makes me happy that I can make my little part of the blogosphere a place where people can choose to read or not read something based on their current mood, previous triggers, etc.
Content warnings are not about what people find offensive, but what people find to cause negative or harmful reactions in themselves. Content warnings don't necessarily mean that a person will choose not to read something; they can act as a warning so that people aren't suddenly reading a graphic scene in a book, or confronted by disturbing images. We place similar warnings on video tapes and in TV shows (e.g. contains course language, sex scenes) so that people can decide if they want to keep watching.
They don't stop people from writing or talking about certain subjects, and instead are just warnings, that allow people to navigate the road ahead while aware of the perils (e.g. rockslides ahead).
In the end, for me, if I can reduce peoples' pain and suffering by creating a safer space online, then I will. It costs me nothing to add them in.
Here's a piece that explores both sides of the issue:
Trigger warnings: More harm than good?
Here are some more pieces to read about content warnings and why they are important:
When You Oppose Trigger Warnings, You’re Really Saying These 8 Things
FAQ: What Are Trigger Warnings and Why Do You Use Them?
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