Tumblr, this one’s for you.

19 Aug

I just finished reading a fascinating article from The Atlantic called “The Coddling of the American Mind.” It’s a little lengthy, but I definitely encourage the read. It’s about, well, most of Tumblr, basically. If you’ve spent more than five minutes on a Tumblr dashboard, I guarantee you’ve seen this phenomenon at work in explicit terms.

The article focuses on the cultural movement that has been growing recently, particularly on college campuses, to construct emotional safeguards like trigger warnings and to push hyperawareness of ‘microagressions’ — unintended or seemingly innocuous statements that could cause offense. It questions whether this is truly helping build a better and more tolerant world, or teaching students to treat all potentially offensive actions as ‘mountains until proven mole hills,’ and preventing them from learning from with whom they don’t agree.

There’s plenty the article doesn’t cover, like the flip side of this argument, how discouraging this particular phenomenon could be used as reason to dismiss more ‘firm’ instances of institutional discrimination.

Ohh look, I just did it. Scare quotes.

Wherever you believe the line on this subject may or may not be, as college students, as formal or informal students of literature (trigger warnings are the new banned books, kids) and as people who express ourselves with words, I highly recommend the read.

What’s the difference between being respectful of others and being silenced by your own culture? Do you agree with the authors’ conclusions about the effects on higher education? The article talks repeatedly about this phenomenon’s effects on classic literature, but how might it affect our generation of budding writers, of works only now being put to print or film?


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