Watching movies and TV shows on Netflix is a relaxing and carefree experience for most of us, but for anyone sensitive to violent scenes, binge-watching can be problematic. That’s why Danielle Leong created Feerless, a Google Chrome extension that issues discreet trigger warnings in real time to soften the viewing experience for people who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Binge-watching may be one of the wonders of the modern world, but surprise events can be seriously damaging if you suffer from PTSD. Leong says Feerless was inspired by her own experience of a triggering incident while catching up on “Sons of Anarchy”. She was prepared for the biker gang drama, the tattoos, drugs, and turf wars. But when a graphic rape scene became an unexpected part of the narrative, Leong had a visceral reaction tied to her own PTSD as a sexual assault survivor. Any kind of sensory stimuli can become triggers for those with PTSD, so that directly or even tangentially related sights, sounds, and smells are reminders of the original traumatic event. Leong says she wishes she’d had a trigger warning while watching the show, so she could step away or even hit fast forward to skip over the problematic scene.
Since there was no trigger warning service available yet, Leong decided to create one. Feerless is available as a free Google Chrome extension. It relies on crowdsourced data to identify scenes that could be triggers for PTSD sufferers, based on graphic content, violent topics, and more. When a potential trigger scene is coming up soon, a subtle bubble pops up in the bottom right corner of the Netflix screen so that you can exit the window, fast-forward, or simply look away.
The idea of providing forewarning to PTSD sufferers isn’t exactly new, and Feerless certainly isn’t the first to do it — but it is the first app of its kind to offer real-time warnings that are designed to be supportive in the moment and also don’t detract from the overall viewing experience. “My hope is that with this app it helps people say, “You know what? I went through something traumatic, and it’s OK to have these reactions, and it’s also OK to ask for help”, said Leong.