This week I’ve been thinking about disagreement. It’s hard to be in the business of journalism and navigate differences of opinion after Black Lives Matter has cracked some of us open. I’ve been feeling unusually vulnerable. In fact, exceptionally so. I’m broadly teflon when it comes to the sharp tenor of online argument. There’s simply no other way to be if you want to write about anything remotely controversial without becoming a nervous wreck.

But I think my thick skin has made me occasionally unsympathetic to those who aren’t the same way. I thought not engaging or reacting to how critical or mean people are about you and your work was a choice, rather than a personal quality. That those who spent their time arguing with people on social media or in comment threads were getting something out of it. That they either enjoyed sparring or had taken a liking to the feeling of victimhood because it absolves your work of scrutiny.

I remember speaking with a colleague a few years ago about how scared some up and coming women and writers of colour seemed. How they spent more time than I thought was necessary worrying about or being upset about how they were addressed online. She asked me for advice on how we can make it better. I said: "We can’t make it better. This is the world we live in now. We can waste time trying to wish it away or we can get on with it."

While I still believe that the world has changed beyond repair when it comes to online disagreement, I think that we also can’t expect people not to respond to it. During the Black Lives Matter protests it was really hard to see so much pain and dignity trampled on by people ready to dismiss it online.

It was hard to write in the full knowledge that some will dismiss it without much engagement. My ability to wall myself off crumbled, and I got a tiny glimpse into what it must be like for others. I got a short-lived but chilling insight into a future where certain demographics can only thrive in public careers when they have certain temperaments.

In a media industry that has issues with representation, this further limits women, people of colour, and LGBTQ+ writers and journalists from entering and succeeding, because whatever you do, no matter how much you steer clear of identity, or approach it with extreme care, someone will attack you for it.

I don’t know what can be done. I just want to say to those people I see you, and I worry about you, and maybe sometimes it’s helpful to just admit that it’s tough. It has helped me.

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