Coincidences are interesting. I actually wrote yesterday’s “Anonymity” entry a few days ago, and posted it yesterday. And last night I ran into this blog post, from a week-ish ago, in which a blogger called Shadowfax, in the medical profession, talks about how readily pseudonymous bloggers are sometimes exposed (I’m quoting most, but not all of it here; go there, and give Shadowfax the hits):
I blog anonymously. By which I mean that nowhere on this site do my name or my likeness appear. But I’m not really anonymous. In the early days of the blog, my name appeared on it, and Google’s memory is forever. I have been quoted in the media under my real name, with my blog referenced. Once, an enterprising, and fortunately benign, commenter used the limited info I provide, some very good inductive reasoning and Google to figure out my real identity.
All of which is to say that anonymity is a thin veil, too easily pierced. As was learned, with serious consequences, by superb (and much missed) med bloggers such as Barbados Butterfly, Flea, and Trenchdoc. The list of medblogs to abruptly vanish for this or similar reasons is a very long one — too long to properly credit them all. I only highlight the above ones because they were among my favorites and went down more or less simultaneously.
I post this to remind myself and all the other medbloggers out there that you need to be conscious that what you post is no different from what you write in a medical record — unlikely to come back to haunt you, but as dangerous as a loaded gun should you write the wrong thing and get unlucky. Anonymous or not, there’s no escaping responsibility for what you write.
I have had a couple of aspiring medbloggers ask me about this topic, and my advice is this:
Do not count on your pseudonym to shield your real identity. Know that getting outed is a likely probability, increasingly so the longer you keep up the hobby. Never post anything under cover of anonymity that you would not be comfortable putting your name to, or that you wouldn’t want your boss or a malpractice attorney reading back to you as you sit on the witness stand. Have a plan for how you will handle it should the question ever arise, and consider immunizing yourself against that contingency by informing your employer in advance of any negative press.
Wonderfully well said, Shadowfax. I’ll repeat the key points, for emphasis:
- “All of which is to say that anonymity is a thin veil, too easily pierced.”
- “Anonymous or not, there’s no escaping responsibility for what you write.”
- “Do not count on your pseudonym to shield your real identity.”
- “Never post anything under cover of anonymity that you would not be comfortable putting your name to.”
Words to live by, in the online world of ones and zeroes.