One thing 2020/2021 and the COVID pandemic has demonstrated to me, is the incredible breadth of human being’s behaviour towards one another.
I have seen and read some heart warming stories of human beings going out of their way to help each other. But equally, as the world has moved toward social media as a major means of communicating, I have seen some real ugliness and anger amongst society. It seems easier to spew vitriol from the safe confines of a computer keyboard than in an exchange in a pub or in the street.
I guess that’s unsurprising really, human beings like many living creatures, are often much braver posturing at a distance.
But it has become one of the main reasons I have moved away from sharing too many opinions on my social media. I have grown to find the negative emotion almost palpable in the air at times and I dislike the effect it has on my own emotions. Nowadays I am mostly there for the memes.
I’ve always preferred to take a considered approach to forming an opinion, preferring to seek a balanced argument out to make an informed judgement. This can be difficult at times, when one side is not mutually exclusive of the other, and the truth often lies in the grey area of a subjective Venn diagram. In a lot of cases there may be some sense coming from either side, and equally a whole lot of ugly. Rather than debate, discuss, share opinions and find what works for the benefit of everyone, there seems to be a new tendency to simply throw down, typographically speaking, and appeal to the lowest common denominator. It’s no longer enough to simply disagree with someone, it has to be personal.
But one particular example of this I find the most vexing. And it comes back to my opinions on the misuse and misappropriation of mental health language. Because no matter which side of the argument you fall on in many given matters, there will probably be parts of the discussion where you can gain points of learning. If you enter into a discussion on a matter with another person, with a view to listening, it is entirely possible you will learn something. Even if it is only where that person is getting their information from, so you can decide for yourself the relevance, and if the rebuttal is worth it. The thing that will invariably cause frustration on either side will be that they are not being listened to. Human beings crave validation.
Unfortunately, since I rarely see a social media debate where a common ground is hashed out, the trend is many times for the other side of the argument to seize upon this as a sign of their ‘victory’. If a person is annoyed at not being heard, or having the scope to express themselves, this goes unrecognised. Instead that person is ‘triggered’. They aren’t feeling frustrated, they aren’t struggling at trying to find a way to communicate to you. They are ‘triggered’.
Being triggered is synonymous with being a poor loser, which to be clear here is a subjective decision by the other side on what losing actually entails. Being triggered is the temper tantrum or the flipped over monopoly board, something akin to the old adage about throwing your toys out of the pram, or taking your ball and going home. Declaring someone triggered seems to rank as a high points scoring exercise in the handbook of play for online arguments.
But have you ever asked a person with mental illness what it means to be triggered? A spike in mental illness symptoms, be it depression, mania, flashbacks, disassociation and more, is often precipitated by an event, or maybe a series of events or life stressors. These are triggers and they are numerous. The person’s psyche is ill equipped to deal with the event/life situation and may react in a variety of maladjusted ways. That person is triggered.
And for that person it is often a time of mental and emotional hardship, and in many cases they are unable to stop that maladaptive response, without a lot of time trying medications and therapies out to learn coping strategies that will reduce the prospect of them being triggered again in the future. In essence the exact opposite of an on the spot tantrum.
Thoughtful language is an ever-evolving process. What is considered unacceptable now may have been the norm fifty years ago. Equally, even the most ‘woke’ person now may be using language that will be decried when our grandchildren have grandchildren.
But with a rising epidemic of mental illness, being compounded by a global pandemic and the bravado of cyber anonymity, the changes to thoughtful language need to evolve much more urgently now than at any time before.
That has been my main driver in withdrawing from debate on many societal issues. It’s not that I have no opinion or that I am not passionate about them, but that I don’t wish to be accused of being triggered and find, that whilst the person at the other end of the keyboard is congratulating themselves on their successful baiting, I am truly, genuinely, triggered.
Thanks for taking the time to read today. I’d love to hear your feedback. If you want to help me out with trying to improve my writing and the site, it would be great if you could leave me a star rating and a comment. I have also left forms below for if you want to make contact about any aspects of the site, or subscribe for email alerts on new blogs being published.