To be Anonymous or Not…


Tonight I participated in the #hcsm chat over at Twitter. I love this chat. It’s full of passionate healthcare providers and patient advocates discussing the role of Social Media in Healthcare. It’s moderated via the account @HealthSocMed and lately by the wonderful @danamlewis.

The topic tonight debated the existence of anonymous doctors as well as patients within the Social Media world. Is an anonymous source authentic? Credible? In choosing to be anonymous, do we have to work harder to earn credibility? What is the motive for remaining anonymous? Can opening up about your condition as a patient hurt you when you seek employment? Why would a patient choose to not be anonymous?

As a patient who has chosen to be authentic in my presence online, I am here to tell you I do not regret the decision at all. My audacity in revealing my identity from the beginning has emboldened other mothers and families. It’s provided an honest insight into my journey, given a face to Postpartum Mood Disorders. If I had chosen to remain anonymous, the results may have been the same but if, down the road, would everything I worked for be instantly discredited if it were discovered I had used a pseudonym? What if I had done so but had been honest about my reasons for doing so from the start? What then?

Sure, I risk a LOT by using my real identity. I risk future employers reading about my experience in a psych ward. I risk judgment. I risk labeling. I risk my identity. But it’s all worth it when my authentic boldness saves lives. When a mom knows I am REAL and have been through the hell she is experiencing. When a dad knows I understand where his wife is and can offer invaluable insight into her journey. When a sister seeks me out on Twitter because she’s at her wit’s end.

Authenticity is the biggest stigma-buster in the world.

Can you be authentic and anonymous?

YES.

Some of the most authentic journeys shared here at My Postpartum Voice were submitted by those who wished to remain anonymous. Anonymity lends an empowering shield when it comes to mental health patients. It allows us to speak up with such detail and courage we may otherwise shun if we were forced to stand on a stage with a spotlight trained upon us, knowing our words will be broadcast to thousands upon thousands, forever memorialized on the Internet.

My refusal to be anonymous has saved lives. My compassion, respect, and understanding of those who wish to remain anonymous has also saved lives.

Anonymity can be a good thing. Authenticity can be achieved within the realm of anonymity. Credibility – possibly, but you have to work for it as well as be prepared for future fall out if you’re not honest about your desire to be anonymous from the start.

When it comes down to it, we can only decide for ourselves how comfortable we are with letting our stories out of the bag. We can only decide if WE choose to be anonymous or fling our true identity into the ring.

I’m in the heart of the ring. I love it here and wouldn’t leave for the world.

What about you? Are you anonymous in sharing your story? Or have you also thrown yourself into the ring of authenticity?

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6 thoughts on “To be Anonymous or Not…

  1. I’m right there with you – I’m out there. Yes, sometimes it’s scary. When I first started I didn’t use my last name (it’s still not on Twitter) but now I don’t worry about it. And people do search my full name and find my blog. I have a little “eep!” every time I see that, but it’s been a conscious choice and I know it helps to be open and honest.

    I’ve heard from others who aren’t comfortable sharing their story (or able to, for whatever reason) and I can totally understand that, of course. Seeing people like you be out there helped me feel comfortable with it and being authentic helped *me* so it’s definitely been the right choice for me.

  2. I definitely think all sides can be legit. I would say I have a nickname (online & IRL). I wouldn’t say I was anonymous but right now it’s not totally by choice. I am fine sharing way too many details of my life & struggles especially w mental illness & health issues bc hose who shared have helped me gain courage to pursue healing. My family on the other hand, they are still uncomfortable with any online presence. (what’s funny about that is thy think they don’t have one but as we all know- there is no real anonymous in our world anymore). I would also say that my close family like my husband & mom might even lean towards being shamed by me. Stigma is so real & palpable all around. Everyone who knows me casually basically knows my whole story. But I am still working on my online etiquette (& IRL) & have made many mistakes in the past that I think my family doesn’t trust me to be like “hey I am related to these people). That doesn’t mean u can’t figure it out or that my stories aren’t true. Unlike a DR tho- I am not prescribing anything, what I say is opinion, I think it’s the listeners responsibility to research my opinion before thy claim it as their own. I treat Dr advise the same way. So I wouldn’t use an anonymous Dr for a one stop source of medical advise.

    Then there are real legitimate reasons like stalkers. Why would they stalk someone so lame, beats me, but it’s real & scary. I suppose one day I’ll have to be offline entirely but for now I’m soaking it all in & love getting to be a part of the SM conversation.

    TY Lauren & fam for all the work you do. You are changing the world & my family for the better.

    • I can whole-heartedly relate to the whole family thing. I try to share my story from my point of view only – it’s hard because I know there are other perspectives into my story which would help so many others BUT they are not mine to share. I may be okay with everything flapping in the wind but am always conscious of those around me who are not.

      I also agree with your point about researching any viewpoint found on the internet – one should NEVER accept something from a site without further research AND discussion with his/her doctor prior to implementing the practice into real life. Question everything. Assume nothing. It’s the wise way to handle information here on the Interwebz.

      Thank you so much for your comment – you make several excellent points!

  3. I agree that for me, I don’t want to be anonymous. I believe it’s a big stigma buster as well. But I would never judge a person for wishing to remain anonymous. We’re each on our own journey and have to choose for ourselves.

  4. I am also in the ring of authenticity. Not only has it helped others, but when I became completely transparent, it gave me back my power. The darkness of depression, anxiety and OCD no longer had a comfy little hiding place.

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