Why I Don’t Blog Anonymously

In my last post, the one in which I temporarily lose my mind and decide to take on a slightly controversial and hugely important subject as my next blogging endeavor, I discussed how it seems some are lagging behind in seeing the benefits of Social Media in the realm of Medical Education. Today I’m going to talk about what I see as an important aspect of my personal Social Media experience – anonymity, or lack there of. Next time, I’ll introduce you to some tweeters and bloggers who have impacted me and try share a few of the really great responses I received on my last post. 

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons User: iamtheo
People have written anonymously for as long as publishing has had a place. Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Eric Arthur Blair…* Not ringing a bell? I bet you’re familiar with their writing…

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Tom SawyerAlice’s Adventures In WonderlandAnimal FarmNineteen Eighty-Four – any of those sound familiar? I don’t think anyone would argue these works being written under pen names, which is not so different than the current trend of establishing an anonymous, yet prominent and consistent, online identity, led them to achieve less than their maximum level of influence. However, they also did not become classics because they were written under pen names.

Obviously, I choose to blog without anonymity. Having my name permanently attached to everything I write makes me consider a post just that much more before I hit “publish.”
Without the mirage of personal protection anonymity brings I will never feel justified in writing snarky or compromising details about patients or using this public domain to vent my frustrations concerning colleagues or classmates. That is not to say that all anonymous writers use their space in that way, but I can think of at least a few prominent medical bloggers who abuse their anonymity as a method of personal protection in order to mistreat or poke fun at their patients.

This blog isn’t really about medicine or patients anyway, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever even blogged about a patient encounter. Mind on Medicine is really kind of a confused blog floating around a big blog-sea, transitioning between personal stories, education endeavors and bad attempts at humor without picking one category to dive head first into.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons User: Erichhh
I enjoy not being anonymous for several reasons, not the least of which being I’m not nearly creative enough to come up with believable and interesting stories that don’t give away information about who I am. As an example of effective anonymous blogging I’ll share with you Apotential, one of my favorite med student blogs. As a comment on my last post the author of Apotential made a great point about anonymous blogging and specialty choice that had never crossed my mind:
“I’ve actually thought a lot about un-anonymizing myself, but in the end, I’m too interested in psychiatry to take that chance. Most physicians can get away with having a professional personality or voice, but psychoanalysis requires anonymity even in the analytic session itself. (Not saying that’s my future career, but I sure haven’t ruled it out yet). So I’m anonymous as far as google is concerned. If I end up going into something else, I’ll eventually de-anonymize. :)”

Other reasons people shared included things like fears of repercussions when applying to residency or jobs, not being comfortable with colleagues reading their writing, protecting family/friends and the very real threat of writings being used against us (out of context) in the future. Personally, I think these are all really great reasons to blog anonymously.

While in my eyes all the reasons for blogging anonymously may seem insignificant when compared to the actual process of keeping a blog anonymous, others may value their anonymity to a greater degree. While I would rather have my writing out in the open when I apply for residencies, because I feel it’s an asset that contributes to me as a whole, others may be more cautious due to the fact that not everyone in this field has caught on to just how beneficial the use of Social Media can be.

I am fully aware of the very real chance that I may someday need to verbally back up not only how I share my thoughts and experiences, but also why I share them. I’m not so naive to think that publishing my writing online will never prompt a negative response, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take in exchange for all the great things I have gained from having a presence in Social Media.     

Or maybe Danielle Jones is just my pen name…

*Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, George Orwell

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8 Comments + Add Comment

  • Great post! There's definitely very good reasons to do it either way, but I like how this way forces a blogger to be more conscious of exactly what they're contributing to the internet. I've wondered whether someday I might create an anonymous blog too, but for now I'm happy with being (semi)openly me.

  • Right on. I can understand students being cautious secondary to applying for residency. Heck, I severely paralyzed my personal Facebook account when I was interviewing. But once you graduate, society charges you with something special. At that point, I still maintain: If you can't put your name next to your words, it doesn't need to be said.

    Nice job. I hope this catches wind and flies.

  • Yup. I was an 'anonymous' blogger until earlier this year. I made the decision to unanonymize myself mostly because it turned out that I wasn't actually that anonymous. Sure, you couldn't find my blog by Googling for me, but, if you did happen to come across it, it was pretty damn easy to figure out that it was me. And suddenly in a quite short space of time, I learned that there were a number of people who had done just that… and, really, if your priest and your flatmate and your choirmaster and several close friends have figured out that it's you, is there really any point in continuing with the facade?

    If I'm going to blog, I may as well do it as though I have nothing to hide.

  • As a premed student just on the verge of applying to medical schools I've debated with myself on whether to be anonomous on my blog or not. Various people have warned me about the "dangers" of social media, but I think you make a great point regarding putting your name on your work. It forces me to think about the quality and professionalism on what I write, because it is right there in the open.

    The way I see it, if admission committees are going to be searching for applicants on google, why not have the first link they see be a site that I have control over rather than what other people have to. say.

    Awesome posts, by the way. Just found your blog through twitter and look forward to reading more!

  • I agree with what you say and I really respect you for being willing to stand up and put your name on the things you write. I have seen some anonymous med student and/or doctor blogs on the internet that say things that the writer would be probably be ashamed to put their name on if they had to–and when you are talking about patients, you just shouldn't say those things at all.

    Also, some "anonymous" blogs aren't as anonymous as some people may think–with Google and everything, even stringing together a few details makes it easy for a person to figure out your real name and/or your school or hospital.

    I was blogging semi-anonymously (though I really didn't hide enough details for it to really be anonymous) but I stopped. Not because of privacy concerns as much as that I really didn't feel like I had a lot to say in a public form on a day-to-day basis. But if I were to return to blogging, I think I would use my real name.

  • I'm a physician who has chosen to use social media with my real identity (my superhero name is a closely guarded secret still). I occasionally blog about a recent diagnosis, but never with any identifying data- I saw patient with disease X, let's talk about it.

    Using a pseudonym can be helpful for some people, but at times it can be a hindrance. A reporter recently needed a source on a topic, and the person I knew who could provide it would only be quoted by pseudonym. Not acceptable for MSM.

    Really, the rules for blogging via pseudonym or real name are pretty similar because the veil of anonymity is so superficial.

  • You nailed it pretty girl. And the thing I hate the most are anonymous commenters – people who don't have the balls to say what they really want under their real name. They have to hide their name to be able to say what they really want. Losers.

  • I don't even know why I am anonymous…I don't write anything obscene, no profanities, usually about my regular life…You made me think, girl…

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About The Author

I'm an ObGyn. I started this blog as a medical student (some would call that doctor school) and now I'm working as an Ob/Gyn, which is seriously the coolest job ever. I'm a twin mom and recently added a baby brudder to the mix. My life story through November 2010 can be viewed here. The events in the many years following can be summed up as wedding bells, books, exams, babies, and doctoring. I started this blog in hopes of landing a role in a Lifetime movie so I could quit medicine and move to Hollywood, but that hasn't happened...so if you wouldn't take medical advice from Angelina Jolie, you shouldn't take it from me. I may not even be a real person. In fact, I'm probably a spambot. Or possibly a 15 yo boy blogging from a dingy basement. If you're really interested you can read more about me here. If you have any questions or want to guest post contact me.

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