I promise this post is not about the AMA CEJA report. Just bear with me for a moment or two.
A few weeks ago, Daniel Carlat, MD – noted critic of industry-supported CME – wrote a post on his The Carlat Psychiatry Blog about the reaction of the CME community to the passing of the latest AMA CEJA report. Having been mentioned in the post, I was most interested in reading the comments from his readers. What I found most curious, though, was that of the 10 comments posted, 4 of them were anonymous (possibly all from the same person).
Despite his protestations to the contrary (quote: “CME HULK IS CME HULK”), whoever is tweeting as @CMEHulk is tweeting anonymously.
Monday, amednews writer Kevin B. O’Reilly posted this provocative piece on doctors who blog or tweet behind a cloak of anonymity (and those who don’t).
Later that afternoon, completely unrelated to that post, I was part of a LinkedIn group discussion about why more people in the group did not contribute to discussions. One concern raised was the lack of anonymity involved and fear of possible repercussions based on contributions and opinions.
I have mixed emotions about those who blog/tweet/comment anonymously, clinicians or otherwise. On the one hand, it certainly empowers individuals to freely speak their minds, especially those not naturally prone to do so. I’m in favor of anything that leads to a free and healthy exchange of ideas and opinions. Also, a lot of these anonymous contributors are just plain funny. Tweeters like @CMEHulk, @docgrumpy, and @BurbDoc wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining if we knew who they were. I lost complete interest in @BronxZooCobra when I found out it was Ryan Seacrest.
On the other hand…well…to be perfectly honest…anonymous posting is the easy way out. How much courage does it take to stand up for what you believe in if no one knows who’s taking the stand?
As I read through those anonymous comments on Dr. Carlat’s blog – a large portion of which I agreed with – I found myself annoyed at whoever posted them. I felt that they were making valid points, but losing credibility because of the manner in which they were posted. One commenter criticizes Dr. Carlat for what he or she perceives as a lack of disclosure and transparency on Dr. Carlat’s behalf. I actually laughed out loud at that one. How can you critique someone else’s transparency when you yourself don’t have the guts to reveal your name?
When I started this blog back in the spring, I briefly flirted with the idea of doing it anonymously, for all of the reasons already mentioned. I wonder how it would be different if I had done so. I’m sure I would be harsher in my criticisms, more blunt with my opinions, less willing to pull punches. I still have moments when I crave the freedom to write completely and totally what I am feeling.
I started to think about the types of things I would write that I would want to be anonymous. If what I’m writing is so harsh, so controversial, or so mean that I wouldn’t want my name attached to it, is it really worth sharing?
In the end I decided it wasn’t, and I’m glad I chose the route I did. I believe it has made me a better writer by causing me to thoroughly think through my arguments and research my opinions (it hurts a lot more to be wrong when everyone knows it is you being wrong). It has made me more confident in expressing my opinions and more willing to do so verbally (it’s always been easier for me to express myself through writing than through talking). And sure, there’s a bit of self-indulgence involved, too. If I write something I’m particularly proud of or that gets a good reaction from others, I can say “I did that!”
Have an opinion, share it, discuss. And just as importantly, be yourself.