Investigating Social Media Users’ Perceptions on Trigger and Content Warnings

Trauma is the physical, emotional, or psychological harm caused by deeply distressing experiences. With increased online interactions, social media content can trigger existing trauma and even re-traumatize a person.

To combat this, social media users add trigger warnings (TW) or content warnings (CW) to posts dealing with sensitive content or content that can trigger someone's trauma(s). 

However, a literature gap exists on users’ perceptions of using TW/CW in posts and what factors make TW/CW (in)effective on these platforms. Understanding this is crucial to developing trauma-informed tools for navigating sensitive content on social media. We are conducting a semi-structured interview study (n=15) on social media users' perceptions of TW/CW. 

The Research Questions we are trying to answer are:

So far, we have found that our participants and those they interact with on social media try to empathize with other users by using TW/CW and other tools. However, there exists variation in people's understanding of TW/CW. We discovered that people use various norms and practices in adding TW/CW. We then found the complexity of knowing when and how to add TW/CWs, and what social media platforms can do when TW/CWs are not perfect. Based on these insights, we plan to discuss design implications and how these insights can inform the design of tools/features and interventions that platforms can incorporate to make online spaces safer for the vulnerable.

Stay tuned!

PS: This is my thesis project currently, and we plan to submit it to CSCW 2024 soon!