4 Ways to Avoid Triggering Content

The meme created by Michelle Ferrier from art by La Nena.

Journalists use digital tools for newsgathering, finding sources, sharing their work and listening for issues to follow. Many cannot avoid interacting in digital spaces and turn it off when they are receiving online threats. They may be triggered daily with reminders of a hostile online work environment or microaggressions and unwanted sexual advances from anonymous sources.  These images may be racist symbols of camera equipment twisted in nooses as it was on January 6 2021 at the U.S. Capitol. Or “Murder the Media” scrawled across the Capitol doors. 

Witnessing others trauma and reporting on it can also create anxieties and fears you, behavioral and sleep changes and other harms. Triggers are words or images that remind people of a traumatic experience they’ve had before. But there are ways to avoid these triggers and begin to minimize their impact on you and your work.

Journalists can be stressed by online attacks in ways that affect their journalistic routines. From monitoring social streams to responding to email and phone, doing the job may also bring on additional emotional and professional challenges. Women journalists and  in particular women journalists of color, are targeted online — they are threatened directly or their private information is leaked or shared without consent or they are bullied out of the profession. They are specifically targeted with gendered and racist  messages that are violent and sexual in nature.

Protection begins with locking down access to you online. Use the tools in the privacy settings of social tools to deflect, contain and ignore many threats. Twitter and Facebook allow levels of access for you to listen and for others to hear. Here’s how women journalists can block such disturbing content from their Twitter account.

Limit your results to people you follow

One way to avoid looking at damaging results when searching for any topic is to limit the results. To do this:

  1. Open your Twitter account.
  2. Click the magnifying glass option at the bottom and click the ‘Search Twitter’ bar.
  3. Type in the keyword you are looking for information about, then click on the two dials right next to the keyword. This will open the search filter window.
  4. In this new search filter window, click on ‘People you follow.’
  5. Once you see a green tick mark next to that more restrictive option, instead of ‘From anyone,’ then you know you have followed the steps correctly. 
Mute words that you find triggering

If you don’t want to see certain words in your Twitter timeline or search results, one easy method is to mute them. To do this:

  1. Open your Twitter account, click the three horizontal lines on the top-left corner.
  2. Scroll to the bottom and click on ‘Settings and privacy’,
  3. Once this opens a new window, click on ‘Content preferences.’
  4. In the Safety section, click on ‘Muted’ and then click on ‘Muted words.’
  5. Then simply hit on ‘Add’ on the bottom-right corner and enter any word you don’t want to see anymore. You can choose if you simply want to avoid seeing this word from your timeline, notifications, or from any Twitter user; and for how long.
  6. Choose your preferences and choose ‘Save.’ Once you see that keyword under the ‘Muted words’ section you are good to go. 
Block accounts that consistently post disturbing material

If there is a Twitter user who constantly posts triggering content, you can consider blocking their account. To do this simply go to their account, click on the three dots on the top-right corner and click ‘Block [insert username]’. After this the account will no longer be able to follow or message you, you will also not receive any notifications from them. This will also block their Tweets from your timeline and search results, and every time they tweet something you will have to actively click ‘View’ to see their content.

Turn Your Account Over to Someone

Can you just walk away from your social account? For just a bit?  Create some distance between your professional and personal lives for awhile. Sometimes, it’s best to just step away.

Team TrollBusters consists of journalists, technologists, digital security analysts, mental health practitioners and others committed to helping you stay safe online.

Published by michelleferrier

Executive Director, Media Innovation Collaboratory; Founder, Troll-Busters.com | Online Pest Control for Writers and Journalists;

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