I first got my taste of how angry News24 comments can be when I wrote a short, tongue-in-cheek article about some of the stranger, funnier pick-up lines men try to use on me in bars.
It wasn't just the fact that the response was so foaming-at-the-mouth furious, it was the fact that hundreds of people I've never met seemed to really want me to absolutely hate myself.
Now, I've written about so-called "controversial" issues like sexism and racism many times, and the comment section has, without fail, worked itself up into a frenzy each time.
I will be the first to openly admit that my reasoning and take isn't always right. I've written articles I'm not proud of, and have expressed views that I've since changed after intelligent discussion and debate with my peers.
But the comment section is not looking for intelligent discussion and debate. The comment section wants me to hate myself, kill myself, get raped, get murdered, and generally die a horrible death after suffering through a horrible life. All because I have expressed opinions that they don't agree with.
I’m sure that you will receive a lot of criticism for this move. People will accuse you of stifling free speech, of restricting conversation. Nothing can be further from the truth.
I'm quite thick-skinned, and over time my skin has gotten even thicker, so for the most part I can handle a certain amount of the hatred and anger I've come to expect from any given comments on my articles, but I can't deny the fact that, no matter how thick skinned you are, it wears you down.
There's just so much hatred, so much anger. It doesn’t help that some people are so obsessed with spewing hatred at me they actually make multiple accounts so that they can yell at me in stereo.
At one point I joked that I’m a professional human punching bag for a living, and I have to admit I’ve been writing less and less, partly because the abuse I get after an article is published doesn’t always feel worth it.
The thing is, I’m almost known for not being afraid of conflict. People tell me all the time that they wish they could speak up and say what’s on their minds, but that they couldn’t handle the sort of hatred and backlash I get, so they just stay quiet.
And even if I’m gradually more and more often silenced because of abusive, bullying trolls in the comments, how often are other voices silenced and stifled?
So, thank you for this move, News24. Thank you for protecting your writers, and letting us know that we’re no longer expected to accept that walls of abuse is part of our job. Thank you for protecting conversation, and championing free speech.