This year is my ninth professional year in media. I’ve been on “social media” since it really was a sort of virtual yearbook to get to know classmates in college. You had to have a college email to even sign up.

I’ve seen and experienced its growth, likely well beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

That said, I’ve seen social media platforms turn from interesting, intelligent communities of young people finding places on campus and working through projects, to everyone and their mother, grandmother, neighbors, children and even animals having social media accounts.

That’s why I try to take everything I read, particularly in comment forums, with a grain of salt.

This Saturday, there was a “Witness Against Gun Violence,” a two-hour peaceful event featuring people holding non-insulting signs across the highway from where a gun show was being held.

Organizers instructed participants not to argue even if people become belligerent. They prepared for the worst of the community and hoped for the best.

And sure enough, without fail, there was a vitriolic, hateful response to the group on social media, including on The Missourian’s own Facebook page’s comment forum.

I’ve said it before that nothing surprises me, and honestly, neither do the comments anymore. Disheartened, yes, but not surprised. They do sometimes make me feel a little disappointed in humanity.

Often, it’s a small group of narrow-minded people who shout the loudest.

This weekend I heard a comment on “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross in which the man said “A whisper can be more potent than a shout.” I can’t find who to attribute it to, but it struck a nerve.

People like guns. They like saying how they have the right to own guns. But if the slaying of children isn’t enough for every American to be asking for reform, then what is? Why can’t there even be a respectful dialogue?

This column is for everyone who took time out of their day to stand for their convictions publicly knowing they’d be heaped full of disrespect and hateful comments. Thank you.

This column is for everyone who is afraid to stand up for what they believe in, for the disenfranchised, the “minorities” on issues in Franklin County . . . the unheard. People are noticing.

To those who stood, know that you join the ranks of other liberal snowflakes who were tired of the status quo. You join the ranks of people like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and Mahatma Ghandi.

And like them, you’ll create an avalanche if you just keep at it.

Until then, I have just one piece of advice: Don’t read the comments.

You’re better than that.