From time to time I come across posts that contain content that makes me feel uneasy in a way.

This time I just saw this post which contains an image of snake. I used to be extremely afraid of snake and seeing that image could have driven me to a nightmare (although it no longer does, thanks a lot to my biology textbook years ago). Still, I have a strong tendency to remove that image from the post, but it seems relevant to the post.

The above event led me into thinking of this question, written in title.

Other not-so-extreme cases may include

  • potential offensive content (e.g. the term "black people", AFAIK this may be considered rude in some areas and varies by culture)
  • potential or implicit NSFW like violence-themed or sex-themed images, assume they're on-topic for the post
  • certain content that are well-suitable for the general, but may be inappropriate for some individuals, like the snake I described above. Other examples include explicit blood (valid in related fields, but may trigger phobias), depressives (like the wake of a battlefield, more likely appear on a history-themed post), or other random items/words that many people see every day that just whatsoever makes some feel uneasy

All the above examples are valid reasons for an individual user to edit such content out, or hide it behind a link, which may be potentially harmful to the original post, despite its original state causing little to no trouble for the majority. What do you think about this?

  • 3
    Are you saying the term "black people" is potentially offensive or that the N-word is, and editing it to the former would be a not-so-extreme case? Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 17:27
  • 1
    Also that snake isn't really relevant to that post. It's really just a visual pun Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 17:28
  • @TheWanderer I mean "black people" is considered rude by certain people. Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 17:28
  • @TheWanderer A pun could be relevant to the post IMO if it gives a better impression to readers about the topic of the post. Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 17:29
  • 3
    In some cases, yes. But in your example I don't see how the snake is relevant.
    – Picachieu
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 17:52
  • The picture is of a boa constrictor, the author of the post was making a pun. The image is necessary in order for the pun (the comments 600 char limit is in some occasions too constricting) to work. Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 8:18

3 Answers 3


No, it is not okay to edit posts based solely on your own personal feelings.

This curated collection of questions and their answers is not meant for you alone, nor is it tailored to you specifically, nor should it be.

Relevant edits should improve the post to make them useful for future visitors. Images and wording can trigger certain emotions and if you're sensitive to that then by all means use that trigger to have a close look at the post. Do edit if you feel a significant number of visitors would be confused or distracted by the content. Do flag if the content is plain rude/abusive without any other objective then to be controversial. Leave a comment if you feel the content might have an unintended side-effect. You can then work with the OP to find a solution, if possible.

Slightly related: Is it OK to have avatars that trigger phobias?


There are a couple ways to think about this:

  1. Take a cue from Kant and ask yourself what this place would be like if editing a post based on your fear was the universal law. In other words, what does this site look like if every person edits posts based on an individual reaction to the content. If that content is almost universally despised, then this law would be just fine. And that's the case when the content is truly offensive to most people, and why most people would agree the content should be flagged. If the content is only offensive to the one (or a few) individuals, then the site becomes chaotic because you can never know what will trigger an individual.

  2. The OED defines phobia as:

    …an abnormal or irrational fear.

    So what you are asking is whether we should allow abnormal, irrational ideas to govern the content on this site. Again, that leads to chaos because there is no way to define what ideas might be irrationally held by everyone in the audience. Imagine the havoc wreaked by someone with arithmophobia.

While I have sympathy for people who have to deal with phobias, it is theirs to deal with. The rest of the world can't accommodate every individual phobia and trigger.


Questions to ask yourself:

  • What is my motivation?

  • What does this content mean to other people?

  • How would my actions (editing, flagging) affect other people?

Very often if something is all self-motivated, there is a good chance that it is wrong. Viewing something from the perspective of other users sometimes helps to guide and manage reactions.

If I stumble across something which offends me deeply, but the vast majority of people would see no problem with, what actions should I take? Well, you don't have to stay around, or participate; if you leave then and there, you will be harmed less by removing yourself than actually trying to remove it.

If you do edit it out just for your own sake, on the other hand, you will probably have it rejected/rolled back and you have not gained anything.

Self-motivated actions have the potential to create strife, and may also be unhelpful to you.

So, my advice would be if your motive is only about yourself, remove yourself from the whatever it is you are reacting to. In doing so there will never be any harm done. If it is truly offensive to other people, however you will likely be helping others instead.

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