Memes can be fun and really be a great ‘inside joke’ to social media users, but sometimes the internet does take it a step too far, which is why I’ve decided to discuss one of 2016’s biggest meme trends; the ‘triggered meme’.
For those who don’t know what memes are, Google describes it as “an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.” If you are a social media user, such as myself, there’s a very high chance you’ve seen one in your time online. There’s no harm in having a joke and a laugh, but when it comes at price of people being hurt, that’s when it needs to stop.
Here’s an example of the ‘triggered’ meme…
doggered lmao pic.twitter.com/9m8khoskNX
— Triggered Memes (@TriggeredMemess) 23 July 2016
What participants of the joke telling (mostly millennials from what I have seen) have vastly ignored or overlooked the actual meaning of “trigger” and why it’s actually not funny at all.
‘Triggered’ is in fact a legitimate psychological term in which refers to emotions that surface in response to stimulation which brings up a traumatic past experience. Trigger warnings (also known as content warnings) are particularly placed on the internet ahead of content which may be of a explicit nature or that could contain potential triggers for people with past trauma.
Although not always, more often than not triggers happen to people who have PTSD. For some people, a trigger can be identified with past traumatic experiences and therefore they are able to pinpoint why they are triggered. For others, it’s a total mystery. Despite the cause of triggers, those who experience them tend to recognise patterns within the kids of things which trigger them over time. I’ve definitely had (and still have) some things which can trigger me and cause a panic attack.
The whole “triggered meme” trend is actually quite ableist, which means it is discriminating against those with physical, emotional, psychiatric or developmental disabilities. The term “triggered” in the context of the meme is ableist as it minimizes a person’s trauma and can make people question whether they are actually overreaction.
I know that when a viral trend starts online, people often think it’s harmless and aren’t aware of the offense and usually don’t mean anything by it, using it in a non-malicious context, but that doesn’t mean they should be excused. Using terms such as triggered as well as other terms for mental health such as “that’s/you’re crazy!” “I’m so bi-polar with my moods” “you’re insane” “I can’t go to a concert, I’m so depressed” all add to the stigma of mental health. They are often used by privileged people who rarely experience these microaggressions, which is why we need to explore them and openly discuss why they are harmful.
So, maybe in 2017, we can be a little more open minded and understanding with our memes and remember how they can actually impact other people. We all like a joke and a laugh, but let’s be mindful towards other people.