What is it with anonymous medbloggers?
Something has got my hackles lately….anonymous medbloggers.
I just don’t get it. If a physician is going to take the time to create a blog to spread his or her opinions and expertise, why wouldn’t they do it under their own name? In a way it really bothers me. There is so much information on the web, and a great deal of it is poorly sourced and unreliable. I would like to think that physicians will publish medical information that is accurate, at least as well as we know, and that the MD or PhD credential will lend credibility to their writings. But to me it just destroys that credibility when the doc chooses to blog under a psuedonym.
I think that some docs are worried that their words will be used against them in a court of law. I believe that people believe this, but I certainly don’t believe that myself. Its just paranoia. At some level that’s like thinking that there’s somebody listening to you, just dying to take you out of context and destroy you. The problem with that thinking is that it ignores that the original source is always available for review later, and ultimately the blogger controls the context. We have the ability to write whatever we want. I’ll occasionally write something inflamatory, but I’ll stand by it as what I believe. Whatever I write certainly reflects what I believe when I write it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t reserve the right to change my mind. The idea that any idea I write down defines me forever more is just obtuse, and seems almost frightening to me, an affront to the potential for personal development. Is every author defined by their first novel? Is every musician defined by their first album? I would hope that everybody matures with time, and doesn’t perpetually agree with every bit of material they ever produced.
More importantly, writing anonymously ignores the potential for branding oneself. Every blogger has the opportunity to create their own brand, through all facets of social media. Why would you want to brand a faceless image? This is not V for Vendetta. The ails of the medical system are not going to be cured by some faceless crusader and a bunch of bald headed rebels. We need real faces with real names who can bring real arguments. If I am trying to effect some real change, my credentials are a weapon to be used, and hell if I’m going hide them. All medical professionals are respected members of society. Hiding behind a mask undermines that respect, and in some ways hurts us all.
If the goal is to educate, the mask undermines that as well. There are so many poor sources out there, and I have no interest in getting my education from a source that claims to be a physician but doesn’t want to tell me his or her name.
Sermo, the physician’s social network, gets around this somewhat by requiring that all registered users prove that they are licensed physicians. But still the anonymity of it bothers me. Over time I have gotten to know the more prevalent posters, but do I really know them? I know that “OBGYNFlyer” is a strong surgeon who is pretty thoughtful, that “Andrea333″ is a psychiatrist that has no tolerance for anything remotely pro-choice, and that “steeldoc”, having been sued at least once, will do absolutely anything to avoid a repeat courtroom appearance. But do I really know these people? Ultimately these people are creating an image of themselves that may or may not be real, and there is no way for anyone to corroborate them at all. Sermo doesn’t even require that MDs represent themselves in their actual specialties. For all I know their characters could be complete fabrications. It happens all over social media, so why not on Sermo? And that bothers me. In some cases certain screen names have been demonized, and others have been canonized. One character eventually left because of all the abuse he/she got on the site. Another character “wonposet” is held up as a near-deity. But who really knows who these people are. “wonposet” posts many beautiful and thoughtful posts, but who knows how much of that is really his/her character. I’m sure he is a normal person, with light and dark parts, who chooses to only post the light. Similarly some folks who seem to always post negatively are virtual pariahs, but in reality they are probably just getting their angst out a bit.
Those that post on Sermo under their real names are often criticized for somehow exposing themselves to dark forces of medical malpractice. By now most OBGYNs on Sermo know that “markalanis” is a smart young MFM in Charleston, SC, “creasman” is William Creasman, and “nickfogelson” is a cocky young generalist with a blog. If I get sued I’ll point to this blog entry as my defense.
So I encourage all you anonymous medbloggers out there to come out from under the sheets and reveal yourselves. The biggest benefactor of this decision will be you. Or at least comment on this blog and explain your motivation.
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