About Content Warnings and Asterisks

Today, I wanted to talk about something that appeared on my Twitter timeline that felt quite eye-opening in a way. On Monday, Rinike tweeted out about how people should stop censoring their TW/CW tweets.

In the tweet embedded above, Rinike’s talking about how tweets that have certain words censored (example: “suic*de”) are not only still triggering but also cause another issue: They appear on timelines for people that have the word muted. And while I did previously (and still) agree with triggers still triggering even if they’re censored, I frankly never thought about how a censored trigger would still appear on a timeline even if it was muted. It makes sense. And I still agree with everything she says on the matter and just wanted to talk a bit about timeline curation on social media and trigger words in general.

Generally, social media can be incredibly draining and toxic if you don’t curate who you follow or what shows up in your timeline. If you like a tweet, Twitter will, for instance, show you more of that tweet’s author. Similarly, you may see a lot of retweets by someone whose tweets you may enjoy but whose retweets are questionable. Twitter has a lot of in-built tools to help you curate everything, like turning off retweets or muting/blocking people and specific terms. These terms that you enter into your blocked terms can range from trigger words to political people to topics and even Wordle, that cursed thing. I have “Flüchtlinge” (German for “refugees”) muted because I don’t want to see any tweets that talk about people that are bigoted against the victims of any catastrophe happening in the world right now. It’s upsetting me and I almost always get tempted to jump into stupid arguments with shitty people about how they wouldn’t like to be treated this way if Germany was being bombed and if they had to seek refuge in a different country… So, to not get tempted to waste my time like that and to not get upset at people’s bigotry, I frankly muted the term, meaning that I (hopefully) won’t see that crap on my timeline.

Asterisks completely avoid those filters, though. It’s sometimes annoying when you mute someone but someone you follow responds to their stuff and you still see it on your timeline, which is why you have to block the person that you originally just wanted to mute… or you try to ignore it as best as you can. Meanwhile, it’s even worse when someone you follow uses an asterisk to “censor” a word that you don’t want to see on your timeline. It’s not “less triggering” if you see “suic*de” or “su*cide” or any other iteration of the word instead of “suicide” – and I take that word as an example here because it’s something that triggers me personally. The issue here is as well that you only have so many iterations that you could enter and it’s tedious to keep every filter up-to-date with any creative measures that people come up with to avoid the filters. I mean… You could put People don’t always use asterisks either but go with “suic+de”, for instance, which – again – doesn’t make it less triggering for people that survived.

But then again, I want to believe that it’s not always intentional. I’d assume that most people that do use asterisks in those cases or other forms of censorship do not know any better. I try to assume positive intent. The reason why people put “TW/CW” in the headline of their tweets is that they want to warn people about the upsetting contents of what is to come. Censoring the word is supposed to make it less triggering. I assume most people don’t know that it doesn’t work like that, on top of it circumventing filters, which is why I applaud Rinike for talking about it – and I wanted to bring more attention to it with my post here. In the cases where it truly is intentional, I hope that people stop doing that shit because it doesn’t reflect well on them. As Rini says: “Decide if clicks and interactions are more important to you than possibly causing anxiety/panic to someone.”

So, overall, it’s a shame that it happens and I want to believe that it’s not intentional but if it is, that sucks and I hope that people will see that it’s wrong. I frankly didn’t know that the filters don’t pick up on the asterisks… primarily because the terms that I have muted (mostly political stuff) don’t usually get censored by people. On another note, I know that for a lot of people synonyms don’t help either but I’ve also heard that it at times helps some people when a word is replaced with another, which is why I use terms such as “assault” or “sexual assault” instead of that four-letter word because according to some people I know that’s less triggering for them in particular. So, if I do put up a trigger warning, I use terms such as those because of people sharing their opinion on the matter for me. I know that not everyone has the same experience with these triggers and words but I believe that by paying attention to others and taking other people’s opinions on the matter into consideration, we could avoid doing harm to others, even if it’s unintentional. By that, I mean that we are considerate towards people that are bothered by it instead of only listening to people that aren’t bothered by it. My use of “italic” for instance is also very limited on this blog precisely because some people get a headache from it, including me, and while I do know that many others don’t mind it, I try to take it into consideration – just as an example that doesn’t require the use of any specific words. Or to mention another example, the usage of gifs in reviews or posts is something that bothered a fellow blogger that I respect a lot, so I stopped doing that ever since he mentioned it.

So, just some thoughts on the matter. Check out Rinike if you haven’t yet. She’s pretty cool and she sometimes streams on Twitch and also wanted to get into blogging as well. Also, stay kind and hydrated and take care of yourself!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

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