Recently, there has been a discussion about tips for using social media with photosensitivity, and how to avoid strobe lights on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and similar websites. As someone who has dealt with migraines triggered by strobe and flashing lights for eight years (with knowledge about migraine and social media), I have learned a lot about how to avoid these triggers and still use social media for my website and to keep in touch with friends. Here are my tips for using social media with photosensitivity and avoiding strobe and flashing lights online.
Examples of photosensitive conditions
While not all people with these listed conditions may experience photosensitivity to strobe or flashing lights, some examples of conditions that can be impacted by strobe or flashing lights include:
- Non-epileptic seizures
- Sensory processing disorder
- Visual impairment
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Turn off autoplay within apps
Within the settings section of most social media apps and websites, users can disable autoplay for videos and gifs so that media will not be played unless the user clicks the play button. This has been especially helpful for scrolling through my social media feeds, as I don’t have to worry about suddenly seeing a bunch of flashing lights from a video or gif.
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Disable autoplay in device settings
Did you know that you can disable autoplay for websites and messages on your smartphone? Here’s how to do it:
Disable autoplay in iOS
- Open the Settings menu
- Go to the section marked “Accessibility”
- Under the “Vision” section, select “Motion”
- Disable autoplay for video previews
Disable autoplay in Android
- Open Google Chrome and click the button with three dots
- Select the option for “Site Settings”
- Go to the “Media” section and set Autoplay to be blocked
Mute words or phrases with content warnings for photosensitivity
In the muted words section of my social media, I have words such as “strobing lights”, “strobes”, “tw epilepsy”, “fancam”, and similar terms that would traditionally be used to indicate that content is not safe for me to look at with photosensitivity. This means that posts with these words do not show up in my main feed, even if someone I follow retweets or posts content with these words. If one of my muted words shows up in a thread on Twitter, a message saying that a tweet contains a muted word shows up in its place, though does not tell me what the word is.
Side note- a great way for content creators to be an ally for people with photosensitivity is to mark posts with trigger/content warnings for strobe/flashing lights when relevant, as this can help users with avoiding posts that could cause an adverse medical reaction.
Turn off ads whenever possible
I have adblock enabled whenever possible, including on my web browser, and will buy apps that do not have ads if given the option, as ads with surprise flashing lights can cause a migraine for me. If an ad comes on while I’m YouTube, I will look away until the ad is finished.
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Block or mute accounts that are known to use strobe lighting in content
If a social media account shows me an ad or post that has strobe or rapidly flashing lights, I will mute or block them so I don’t have to worry about coming across that post again. In addition, if I believe that a reply or comment on one of my social media posts contains a strobe or flashing light, I won’t play the video and will just hide the reply from my timeline or delete the comment whenever possible.
Be cautious opening stories or videos without previews
I recommend exercising caution when opening stories on social media, or videos/gifs that do not have a preview image, as there is a chance that there may be strobe lights from things such as concert footage, camera flashes, or similar visual effects. This seems to be especially common on stories as people add animated effects and stickers to their content.
Ask friends to check media for flashing lights before they send you things
My friends are awesome at checking gifs and videos for flashing lights before sending them to me through my direct messages or in text messages. My friends are awesome at filtering out content that they know will give me a migraine, and I’ve written a whole post about checking videos for flashing lights, which I will link below.
Summary of tips for using social media with photosensitivity
- Examples of photosensitive conditions include epilepsy, autism, ADHD, visual impairment, PTSD, migraine, vertigo, non-epileptic seizures, and sensory processing disorder, though not all people with these conditions have photosensitivity
- Turn off autoplay within apps and disable autoplay in device settings
- Turn off ads or use adblock
- Mute words or phrases with content warnings for photosensitivity
- Block or mute accounts that are known to use strobe lighting in content
- Be cautious opening stories or videos without previews
- Ask friends to check media for flashing lights before they send you things