Saturday, August 19, 2006

[Roy] When Worlds Collide

Here's an interesting thread that got me thinking along the same lines as that New Yorker cartoon with two dogs and one is saying, "In cyberspace, no one knows your a dog." Over on BigFatBlog I read this discussion about a brouhaha over at KevinMD about some extremely disparaging remarks about obese people which were written in the comments to the post.

These were pretty nasty comments, such as "monstrous layers of blubber", "some lardo whale that makes Jaba the Hut look svelte", and "most of these patients belong in a zoo...they're animals and deserve to be treated as such." Many of these were anonymous posters being a-holes, but apparently one of them was a physician according to the screenname.

Here's where the point of my post picks up. The BFB comments note that someone (jmars) did some googling and discovered that one of the docs who made some of the comments was a respected physician at the University of Kentucky, Dr Coupal.

Here's where it gets interesting for the blogosphere. Someone called his real-world employer and lodged a complaint against him, triggering a disciplinary action.

I'll say this again.

One "anonymous" blogger called another "not-so-anonymous" blogger's employer and complained that he made unprofessional comments on a blog, resulting in an apology and an explanation (that the comments were taken out of context).

Wow! What I find fascinating is that, at least how I see it, bloggers are essentially disembodied eponym's, not necessarily having anything to do with the actual person typing in the text. Some bloggers are even actresses who are paid to blog from a particular perspective (eg, someone who is lonely, sexy, and just loves Smirnoff Ice). So I see bloggers as sort of alters for a kind of wired, multiple-personality, real person which permits one to express different points of view, attributable to different pen names, so to speak.

We've discussed before (I think FatDoc blogged on this recently) about how disorienting it is when the blogosphere unexpectedly intrudes into our real life (RL). Should we assume that what we read in one's blog truly represents the individual writing it? If not, should we hold them accountable for extreme views -- and do we hold the RL person accountable, or just the blogging persona?

It's kind of a dream world, where we expect blogs to maybe reflect RL, but that the blogosphere (BoS) is not really "real". Kind of like the online "game", Second Life, where one can buy a house, purchase clothes, and even have cybersex... even using RL money to buy these things. Most folks don't expect to run into that avatar you met last night at the Starbucks down the (RL) street.

Here's a Clinkshrink example, that illustrates the confusion that results when BoS & RL collide. Clink will occasionally write a post with perhaps some political undertones (::gasp::). These posts (such as Undisclosed Locations and Officer Down) have disclaimers... you know... like "my views do not reflect those of my employer", etc. Why bother with that? Does her employer really know that ClinkShrink is actually Betty Beavis, MD, of 123 Castanoga Street, in Denver, Colorado (oops!)? Do our fair readers know at which Clink she Shrinks?

It's not necessary, but there's that glimmer of "what if someone finds out" in the back of our blogging minds. Perhaps it is that small thrill, that little bit of anticipatory excitement of discovery that partially drives anonymized bloggers. Wonder what happens to their blogging once they are outed. Probably pick up another alias to use.


NeoNurseChic said...
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Steve & Barb said...

I had to re-read my post. I'm not saying most bloggers are fake or not themselves, just that what they post does not necessarily mean they believe that. Like in Freud Set Back Psychiatry 100 Years, I took a pretty extreme position. I do agree with the sentiment to a certain degree, but I wrote a more extreme view for the sake of discourse and debate.

However, I do like your position, Carrie, that perhaps many bloggers' posts are a more accurate view of their thoughts and feelings than those displayed in real life (at least, for those who blog under pseudonyms). I'll keep my eye out for research that addresses these questions.

So, Carrie, you add disclaimers because coworkers know it is you, or is it in case someone connects you to your posts?

Dinah said...

So this post is very helpful to me. (non-sarcastically, I'll add, since I just ripped off a rather sardonic private email to you about another post, here, I'm not Dead Like Me as you keep telling me, whatever that means).

You and Clink know that I obsessed at first about whether to use my real name or an alias. You both chose to have nicknames: Clink because she believes her employer would not approve of her blogging, Roy because he felt freed by the idea of not having to worry what his boss might read. I, finally and still a total virgin to the concept of blogging and not having a clue what I was embarking on, chose to use my real first name, one that unfortunately is not Sue or Jane, and leaves me very identifiable to anyone who knows me.

Ultimately, I decided that this is mostly a venue for me to write about my professional work and the ideas I have about psychiatry. I write with my real name in print, why not on the blog?

The point of the blog was to have a forum to discuss issues in psychiatry with other psychiatrists (by psychiatrists, for psychiatrists: as the masthead reads). It's not my online diary, it's not my deepest darkest feelings and secrets, it's my thoughts about work, written with my patients, my mentors, my friends, and even my Real Life big brother, all over my shoulder. I don't feel free, that was never my intention, and if I ever decide to keep a journal, it won't be online.

What having my name on it does for me is to moderate me: I remember not to rant too rudely, I remember that I am accountable. I'm not interested in name calling, so it's fine. I have, here and there, swerved into more essay about myself, my feelings, the blog, not it a way that I mind if others read, but transiently I've thought, maybe I should have picked a pen name.

Yesterday's post, Calling Back..., written with an edge of frustration, reminded me of this; it was the first time I felt I talked about my work in a disparaging tone. For this, I'd like the freedom to not be me.

Too late, I'm me.
Thank you for the post, Roy, or whoever you might be!

Dinah said...

Foo: 3 for 3, I do believe we have the same bookshelf.

DrivingMissMolly said...

I too am genuine on my blog. Indeed, I find I self-censor or ocassionally password protect my site especially when I am going through a crisis. My friend M is the only one who reads my blog. My family doesn't know about it.

I cannot imagine the amount of energy it would take to not only create an alter ego, but to keep the lies straight!

However, I am more than my blog. It is just one dimension of me, a dark dimension. Maybe, if I ever get better I can blog about other things, happy things, and the "dark period" of my blogging will become but a distant memory.

BTW, a good example of the "real" identity of a blogger getting out is the "Girl With a One Track Mind" blog. Her graffic writings on sex were published in a book and then she was "outed."


Steve & Barb said...

That Girl Emily is the fake blogger I was thinking of... an actress who was hired to "be" Emily, a character in a viral advertising campaign for a CourtTV series.

NeoNurseChic said...
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MT said...

Re: Spelling, I say browse with Firefox and add the extension Spellbound.

Re: blogging personas, I think we don't invoke or appreciate the "nobody knows you're a dog" principle enough actually. Getting to know someone through raw text is not getting to know some one. That we do feel we've come to know "some one" is just something our brains like to do. It's on a much richer basis of information when we've shared an apartment with the alleged person and know first-hand what she wears and how often and who she hangs out with and what moods she's liable to be in and what kinds of talking tend to signal those moods. Maybe your theory of who she is and what she's like might even be informed by regular visits from her quirky family. "Knowing" somebody from years of buying milk at his corner store or doing business with her on the phone are based on less. Raw text is about as impoverished a basis as it gets. It's blank verse. But no matter what the basis we fill in the blanks using our past and our self understanding and cultural style cues...and so our prejudices and desires, not to mention sideways glances to how others in the chat room are responding to the behavior or persona in question. Politicians get in trouble when they're quoted "out of context," but when you blog with strangers you're out of context all the time.

shraddha said...

I am just a stay at home mom but I am very scared about no one knowing my identity.As I have written details of my psych history on my blog and it could be detrimental for me if my future employers know about it.
One good thing about my name is that it is SO common that if I google my name, there are 5 other people with my name and sirname!
But at the same time I get very scared about commenting on blogs as every one has stats coming up, and for example if someone visited my website from work, then I know where they work.
Similarly, my ip is on my husband's account and I would not want his name being traced back to what I wrote on the net.
On the other hand, my husband likes my blog and he and his close friend are thinking about joining my blog.That would be a deadly combination.
But only future will tell what happens.