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Authenticity, Anonymity and Online Disinhibition

I’ve been on Twitter since 2010. That’s long enough to experience the joy of connecting with like minds, trade wit and barb while others get the popcorn, and yes, to be wholly misunderstood and attacked[t] over a tweet.

Though I call myself Endocrine Witch online, I’ve always used my real name too. I believe that doing so makes me more circumspect about what I tweet, gives me pause before I rant (when I do, though not very often), and keeps me authentic. And so I’ve only ever had one Twitter account.

And so I was amused when I saw this tweet of Ash and the Twitter storm it created.

There were those who took exception to “We’re all performing here.” Bato bato sa langit? I agree with Ash. Our online persona is a performance. And it’s also true offline. One can hardly say whatever comes to mind without getting into trouble. And so in the typical Filipino way, we couch our words. We edit. That’s performance. And yet, it can still be authentic. It is what I permit myself to say. My tweet has my real name on it.

Because there is dissociative anonymity – You don’t know me.

When people have the opportunity to separate their actions from their real world and identity, they feel less vulnerable about opening up. Whatever they say or do can’t be directly linked to the rest of their lives. They don’t have to own their behavior by acknowledging it within the full context of who they “really” are. When acting out hostile feelings, the person doesn’t have to take responsibility for those actions. In fact, people might even convince themselves that those behaviors “aren’t me at all.” In psychology this is called “dissociation.”

John Suler,

John Suler expounds on several types of online disinhibition here.

  • Dissociative anonymity: You don’t know me
  • Invisibility: You can’t see me
  • Asynchronicity: See you later
  • Solipsistic introjection: It’s all in my head
  • Dissociative imagination: It’s just a game
  • Minimizing authority: We’re equals

Reading this tweet by Screaming Pectoriloquy made me reflect. Having my real name and photo on Twitter, do I really fear nothing?

I don’t think so. It does mean this – I take responsibility for my tweets. I hold myself accountable. I advise physician colleagues to do the same, to avoid the online disinhibition that anonymity may bring. Because as I replied to Leonard …

And so for the first #HealthXPH tweet chat for 2020, let’s discuss the following:

T1. Is it ever acceptable for healthcare professionals to rant online? Should a separate “private” Twitter account be used for this purpose? Why or why not?

T2. How close is your online persona to your offline personality? Any insights why this is so?

T3. Have you ever experienced a toxic Twitter conversation? How did you handle it? How do you balance defending yourself and respecting another’s point of view?

See you Saturday 9 pm Manila time, 4 January 2020.

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