On Content Warnings

November 23, 2022

Hey Internet.

I've been seeing a lot of heated debate around the subject of content warnings lately. I've even been repeatedly pulled into that debate myself, so I decided it was best to collect all my thoughts on the matter in a blog post to prevent from having the same discussions over and over.

I want to start by saying that I am no authority on the matter. All opinions expressed in this post are my own. Yours may differ, and that's fine. My intent here is not to tell anyone what to do, merely to express my own viewpoint.

If you've been following me on the Fediverse, it likely comes as no surprise that I use content warnings very liberally. I do not see them as a form of censorship. I see them as a way of respecting consent. I recognize that the Fediverse is a forum where very important discussions are happening (as well as a healthy amount of shitposting). I get why people would choose not to CW something that they feel is important, because they want it to be seen by as many people as possible.

That being said, even when I feel something is important, I will often place a CW on it. Sometimes, even when a topic is important to me, I don't have the mental bandwidth to engage with it. CWs grant me the courtesy of making that choice for myself. In the absence of central moderation, each of us has a greater responsibility for being a good neighbour to our fellow fedi residents.

I'm not going to tell anyone what they should CW or why. I encourage everyone to look into their server's policies on the matter. If you don't agree with it, consider moving to another server. I personally do not currently have any CW policy for mine, especially considering how counter-intuitive the process of adding a CW is on Friendica, but I digress.

I have encountered several posts that I'd have liked to re-share because I felt they were important, but didn't... specifically because they lacked a CW. The paradoxical thing about it is that CWs can actually increase your reach, rather than diminishing it.

To those who are getting upset at others for not using them: I'd like to remind you that various powerful tools exist to help mitigate this problem. You can set up filter lists. You can unfollow, ignore, or block users. Mastodon apparently allows you the ability to block entire other servers. You are well within your rights to use these tools to deal with those who you feel have violated your consent in this way.

Again, the Fediverse is decentralized. There is no one person who has the power to set policy for the entire network... and that's a good thing. In a relatively short time, we have built a wonderfully vibrant, diverse community. (I say we, but I personally, have only been around for about two years.) It saddens me to see people shaming each other over decorum. We each have the tools to shape our personal Fediverse experience in very significant ways. Please remember that.

Have a good one.