Proud2Bme | How to Avoid Triggers on the Internet

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How to Avoid Triggers on the Internet

By Kate Leddy--The first time I contributed to Proud2Bme, I wrote about how my perspective on the Internet changed from a dangerous fuel for my eating disorder to a helpful resource where I could find support through social media platforms and eventually start my own blog about recovery.

I first found a series of pro-recovery blogs on the website Tumblr. It was there that I also learned the phrase “trigger warning” (or "TW").

There was a sort of unwritten agreement -- a clear sign that the people running the blogs truly cared about the well-being of their readers -- that any personal posts that may be considered “triggering” (causing harmful thoughts) for those in recovery would be tagged with a warning before the post began.

These warnings help keep the environment positive rather than harmful, and it’s important that those navigating the Internet are prepared for what they might encounter as well as the potential consequences of what they might post. In my three years of experience in this pro-recovery community, I’ve discovered some more rules, tips and reminders to help keep triggers to a minimum both in posting and reading content:

1) Avoid numbers

All of them. Do not post about your lowest weight, goal weight or the number of calories you have eaten. These are the ultimate invitations to compare oneself to another, and are unnecessary to discuss.

2) You don’t have to only highlight the positives

While I think sharing recovery victories and good days is an excellent thing and should definitely be done more on social media, it doesn’t mean you can’t admit to struggle. Recovery is bound to have difficult obstacles, and painting the image that it is a constant breeze forward can just create a false perception for others that they shouldn’t anticipate struggles. Some of the greatest inspiration I have found on social media has been from individuals who admit to a difficult experience but announce that they will not let it stop them from getting back on their feet and continuing the fight!

3) Remember that everyone is different and in different places

With photos on Instagram and Tumblr, excited tweets on Twitter and constant life updates, it can become very easy to compare yourself to others on social media. Always keep in mind that everyone is at a different point in their recovery. What worked for one person might not work for another, or might have taken weeks to accomplish while you are only seeing the end result. Avoid taking or giving advice with the assumption that it will work or not work for you in exactly the same way. The online recovery community is meant to be a supportive environment, not a place for professional therapy, so remember to take suggestions with some caution.

4) Stop criticizing your body

I often see women posting selfies on Instagram and think “wow, they look beautiful!” only to scroll down and find a long, ranting caption pointing out their flaws or calling themselves names. Such hatred is not only difficult to read, but it can discourage others from admiring their bodies rather than trashing them. Self-love is a practice that takes time during recovery, but it can be contagious on social media platforms when you are in a supportive, pro-recovery community. Seriously, try it! You have the ability to inspire others to love themselves and you may begin to see just how wonderful it can feel to let go of negativity.

5) Be honest with yourself

Curiosity often got the better of me when I saw the “trigger warning” labels, and I’d look anyway. After more than a couple times when this truly made me feel like I needed to run from the Internet, I decided that if I was going to take my recovery seriously I was going to have to prepare myself to not peek until I knew I was stronger. Just in doing this I believe I grew stronger—it forced me to think about what caused me to feel bad about myself and why, until eventually my determination to recover was so fierce that smaller comments on social media did not bother me. When it comes to posting content on social media, try putting yourself in your followers’ shoes and consider if the content would be triggering to you if posted by an individual you didn’t know personally. If so, see if you can reword the content so that it won’t require a warning and can keep your blog being a safe, encouraging environment. 

Let’s try to overshadow all the harmful “thinspiration” and pro-anorexia websites out there and keep changing the Internet for the better! Together, we can help each other maintain a loving community like we have here on Proud2Bme, and spread the inspiration through all social media platforms.

About this blogger: Kate is currently a student at UMass Amherst double majoring in journalism and public health. She is currently president of the Active Minds club at UMass, which works to raise awareness and reduce the stigmas associated with mental illness. Kate also has her own blog, PB is Better than ED

Also by Kate:

The "Dad Bod" Double Standard

I Was Into Thinspiration...Now I Blog About Recovery


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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

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