Emotions are powerful things. Often certain words or images trigger different emotions. These immediate primal responses are the result of thousands of years worth of evolution and development. Humans are hardwired to react quickly; it’s what has kept us alive. In a world that is constantly changing, one would think language is constant. This is completely untrue.
Words change and develop every day. These changes don’t often happen in the way a word looks but rather the emotions the word elicits. The connotation changes as does the way it is used. One recent example of this shift in in the word triggered. I am indeed guilty of using it in joking manner, and this is not an article trying to restrict or judge anyone using it, just to simply explain the changes in its meaning and the way it has affected people.
Recently, as I was scrolling through Instagram, there was a slightly controversial image posted by a student about her experience at the Women’s March. The post detailed her pride in being a woman and her hope for eventually accomplishing equal rights for all, of course I was wildly proud of this and liked it immediately. However, as I was scrolling through the comments of this post I came across a comment made by another student saying, “Wait, what rights do women not have?” I was surprised and shocked by the obvious aggression displayed by this student after the original owner of the post responded politely about why she had marched. A short conversation ensued in which the girl diffused the situation by refusing to argue with someone who was unwilling to see both sides of it. An hour or so I checked back to the post and was surprised to see “TRIGGERED” commented beneath the short altercation. This is where I began to recognize the change in the way the word was being used. It was said offensively and was completely inaccurate to the situation.
I was surprised that someone would call the girl, calmly defending herself in the comments, triggered. I had heard the word thrown around the hallways at school, of course, as a joke and even used it myself a couple times in order to laugh off my own offence at something, but the word has changed from a lighthearted joke to an insult. I find this to be completely surprising seeing how important the word is to some people. I do not believe in censoring students or making them feel ashamed for something that seems so trivial and unimportant but triggers are very real for some people.
Students are lacking the perspective needed in order to see what the world really means. For a retired military member or a victim of sexual assault, anything could trigger an immediate negative reaction. These events or words are called “triggers” because they can cause awful flashbacks and/or trick the mind into panic attacks or worse. People should not be made fun of or called out for having sensitivities. I hope for the safety of other people that words will be chosen more carefully in the future and maybe things will change for the better.
Written by Clara Comparan, staff writer