Tips for Thought

The internet has brought both positive and negative experiences for many. Thanks to its seamless convenience, many people have used the internet for work and play. Since its inception, hundreds of online communities have been fostered, including social media sites, forums, and videos.

This evolution can bring both positive and negative emotions. As for the latter, it’s not uncommon for one to experience negative emotions and react when confronted with shocking news.

However, it does become a problem when these online stimuli can affect your behavior and real-life situation. Here’s what to know about online triggers and how to avoid and manage them.

What are online triggers?

The internet has multiple websites, forums, videos, and real-time content updates. Suppose you’ve been in a public forum or website where news and corresponding comments ignite negative emotions within you. In that case, you may be what the collective internet calls “triggered.”

There are many types of triggers. Some of the most common ones found on the internet include the following:

a. Trolling. Trolling is internet slang that refers to someone intentionally trying to instigate conflict, arguments, and hostility in an online social community. The people who write these inflammatory statements are called “trolls” and can be found anywhere online with an open comment section. People who negatively react to trolls often instigate more inflammatory comments from these trolls, who enjoy riling people up for fun.

b. Clickbait. If you’ve spent some time anywhere online, you’re aware of online articles with sensationalized headlines. These headlines are called ‘clickbait,’ which encourages users to click on an article, image, or video and even encourage others to react negatively in the comments section.

c. Outrage Marketing. Outrage marketing is a general term for a specific marketing strategy where businesses build on the expectations that people will react strongly on social media.

While outrage marketing doesn’t always lead to success, it does create engagement, which can still turn into profit for other audiences. One famous example is the Gillette commercial in 2019, which resulted in mixed reactions from the public.

How Do You Avoid or Manage These Triggers?

1. Identify them.

The first step is to identify and categorize your triggers according to the three common online triggers. What was the thing online that made you experience something negative? Was it a comment? A video? A bad headline for a depressing story? Whatever the case, labeling triggers can help you handle them accordingly while temporarily pushing back your reflex to react.

2. Take a step back.

Sometimes, the best thing we can do is step back and don’t engage. If another person online is trying to rile you up, ignore them. Suppose they continue to harass you to provoke a response, report, or block them so their connection with you is limited. For videos and articles, consider unsubscribing or going off these websites so you can have time to recollect yourself.

3. Question your reactions.

This step requires some self-reflection. What is it about these triggers that affect you so personally? Did they say something that hit deep insecurity? Were they trying to sell you something? Was it annoying having to face the same trigger repeatedly? Learning the reason behind your emotions can help you manage them. When you understand the root cause of your reaction, you can formulate the next step to ensure you don’t get triggered again.

If you can’t avoid these triggers completely, here are some other ways to cope:

Unfortunately, not every online interaction can be controlled. Sometimes, the algorithms in social media sites and search engines recommend content you would never search for in the first place.

However, there are ways to make your online experience less hostile and distressing. Here are some tips for managing these triggers:

1. Keep an open mind.

Insecure or manipulative people or groups usually make trolls, outrageous content, and inflammatory statements. Most online engagement requires a reaction, regardless of whether it’s positive or not. While trolls annoy others for personal reasons, businesses do it to gain some capital.

When you understand the nature of this content by keeping an open mind, you are less likely to react harshly and, at best, are only slightly annoyed. While it doesn’t eliminate the triggers, it helps you handle things better!

2. Communicate.

Sometimes, things can affect us, and no matter how hard we try to control our emotions, we simply can’t. While it’s understandable to be upset and want to let it out, it’s also prudent to be careful with how you express these feelings of frustration.

If you’re annoyed over something, consider talking to a close friend. Consider your words carefully and communicate why it upsets you. Having someone who cares about, you listen makes it a lot better to deal with.

3. Curate your online experience.

There are online features that can help you make your experience less problematic. For instance, many social websites employ a block button which limits trolls and non-friends to interact with you.

You can also use the report feature to showcase administrators on who is bothering you. While they may only sometimes respond, it gives management an idea of what happens in specific online spaces.

Moreover, you can also report ads that annoy you, utilize adblockers to limit distressing ads from social websites and limit your friends list to people you know personally.

4. Physically distance yourselves from your devices.

If taking a hiatus from the internet isn’t working, sometimes it helps to distance yourself from your devices physically. While “go outside and touch some grass” has become condescending internet advice for users, it does wonders to step back and connect with your immediate surroundings physically. Remember, what a stranger says over the internet cannot harm you unless you let it.

The Bottomline: Online triggers have become more common because people are taking advantage of the distance and anonymity that the internet brought to their communities. Nevertheless, handling your emotions, perception, and how you interact online is still important. Otherwise, it could lead to feelings of distress, emotional outbursts, and becoming desensitized to actual horrific events.

However, suppose you’re feeling distressed more often. In that case, it may be advisable to seek help from a professional therapist to find the root of your problem. Good luck!