(Trigger warnings: self-harm, depression, suicide, bullying, sexual assault, dark side of fandom.)
As you may have seen either here or on my Tumblr, my last post dealt with a Tumblr shitshow regarding people receiving anon hate and being pushed towards self-harm. While that was awful enough in itself, it has come to my attention that those “suicides” were actually “pseuicides”–as in, people were pretending to have hurt themselves for reasons that I cannot comprehend. (You can find a thorough summary and explanation here, with bonus commentary regarding the hot mess that is Andrew Blake here.) No matter what you think your motivation is, doing something like that is unequivocally fucked up because the anon hate you post for yourself can be triggering for someone else (as it was for me), and because you have just shot down people’s willingness to believe in those who reach out for help because they are worried they will harm themselves.
Allow me to elaborate.
I have spoken about triggers before (specifically when addressing Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey), but some general remarks bear repeating especially now that the war against political correctness is including triggers. (And I won’t even get into how trigger warnings aren’t censorship since others have done so much better than I could.) In my post about rape jokes, I said the following about triggers:
What people seem to still fail to understand is that being offended and being triggered are not the same thing. Being triggered is being made helpless all over again; it’s being victimized by someone’s words and actions that make you relive past abuse.
Now let’s think about the situation at hand again. When reading the “anon hate,” which was vicious, I was triggered into reliving moments where I was bullied, both by other people and by the voice in my head–because, simply put, depression is a bully and its actions impair your ability to live your daily life. Reading those posts put me right back in that headspace, right back in the headspace where I could be a danger to myself because the awful words that I was reading about someone else rang true about me.
Of course, triggers are a very personal thing–you can never be sure what might be triggering to other people. But some topics are pretty obvious, many of which are in my trigger warnings above. But without a warning, being presented with a triggering experience can be downright deadly if I am not in a headspace where I am capable of self-preservation. (If you’re interested, the article I liked about them not being censorship has some good resources. And there’s always the Geek Feminism Wiki for further explanations and more links.)
But even if you are not concerned with triggers, there is the other result of this debacle: people who genuinely come forward with anonymous hate messages and/or warnings of self-harm and suicide are less likely to be believed. As a matter of fact, most of the time it is dismissed as attention-seeking behavior–which, unfortunately, is what the people who lied about it have displayed. But for those of us who have thought of self-harm and/or suicide as a viable alternative, it’s already very difficult to ask for help, and the fact that reaching out might be dismissed as wanting attention means that we’re less likely to do so. And Tumblr, which for better or for worse has become a place where a lot of us get our social education, now has a lot of people who were deceived and who are angry, disappointed, and likely to avoid engaging with messages like this in the future.
So, where do we go from here? Where can we go from here? My hope is that we will go forward with renewed empathy. For some of us, that will mean taking time off Tumblr and/or distancing ourselves further from the insanity that is that fandom. But regardless of what it takes for anyone who was touched by this to recover, I hope that we can do so together, in a place of caring for ourselves and one another.