About Content Warnings on Mastodon
As a spoonie (spoon theory) it took me a while to formulate my thoughts about content warnings (CWs) and the value they serve to me. While these thoughts have been percolating for a very long while, disability has come in the way to actually complete this piece. However, with the recent popularity of Mastodon, I figured it’d be worth a shot to complete this piece of writing because I think there’s a lot of nuance here that gets lost, even with the generous 500 character limit on Mastodon.
Content Warnings on Mastodon as a feature
I want to quickly explain that while there are distinctions to be made between Trigger Warnings, Content Warnings, and Content Notes as concepts, through out this article I will be referring to Content Warnings (CW) as the feature on Mastodon (and other ActivityPub software). This is to clarify that the CW on Mastodon is a field, where you can put in a small piece (or very long piece) of text, and fold away the rest of the body of the text behind it. This can also be described as a Content Note, or simply a subject title in some cases. As you can probably understand by now, there’s a lot more utility to this field than only adding warnings for content that’s possibly triggering. So in that regard the Warning part of the name Content Warning is a misnomer.
The content warning misnomer on Mastodon
Unfortunately, this misnomer creates some problems when you’re trying to teach anyone about Content Warnings on Mastodon, and some of the culture around it. I expect this is because most people’s thinking is that anything that has warning in its name ought to be something to be warned against, that can cause severe harm, right? Like with the Trigger Warnings, that makes sense. And when you see a someone ask for can you please CW Politics, this might confuse you, because what’s the harm in that? (and what is politics anyways is a whole other can of worms we will not be covering today, nor the aspects of politics as harmful or not). Or things like food, shitpost, longpost etc. It might even feel diminishing for you as a trauma survivor that people are using the Content Warning / Trigger Warning for mundane things. Which…