So, You Want to Be a Bipolar Blogger - Anonymity for Bloggers
There are many, many people out there who either blog about issues of mental health or want to. Pretty much every mental illness is represented by people who are earnestly expressing their opinions and experiences.
But it’s a jungle out there, in the wooly wilds of the internet. So before you press “post,” please consider how much you want people to know about you.
If there’s one thing I say more than anything else to people it’s that you have to stay anonymous. Coming out as bipolar (or with any other illness) online can easily be seen negatively by everyone you know. Everyone you work with. Everyone on a mailing list of someone you know. People have many emotional strings already attached to mental illness and they’re going to attach them to you. Mostly without telling you.
Mental Illness At Work
While it’s illegal to fire someone because of a mental illness, you will never know if your boss read about your latest depression and decided to pass you over for a promotion. You will never know when someone was going to hire you but didn’t because when they investigated you online, they found your blog. Maybe you’ll get moved into a department that just “happened” to de downsized. People may not want to work with you. People may find you less credible. People may attribute every action you commit to your mental illness. And you’ll never know if it was their own prejudice making the decision (even subconsciously).
Do Not Link to Facebook, Twitter
Do not link your writing to anything under your real name or with people you know in real life. If I look up “Joe Smith” and I find his Twitter feed pointing to a lot of articles on depression by “Joe Anderson,” it’s a pretty good guess that’s Joe’s blog. And again, as soon as one person knows, you can assume everyone does.
Do Not Talk About Details that Identify You
If you happen to live in LA, there’s no harm in saying you live in LA as you’re there with a few million other people. But if you happen to live in a small town in the middle of Iowa, you shouldn’t be talking about it because it’s too easy to identify who you are. Don’t specify places unless you plan on being identified.
You also probably shouldn't mention the fact that you have a leaning Tower of Pisa tattooed on your back either.
Identification can impact your personal safety. If you take controversial stances on things, or engage in heated debates, people can be very threatening to your very real life. (A friend of mine had a commenter find out what school his kids went to and threatened them. This stuff happens.)
Once Something is Linked to You, It’s Linked Forever
Once it’s out there, it’s out there. You can’t take it back. There are copies all over the place. Custody battle? Work politics? Someone hates you? Prepared to have anything you’ve written held against you.
That Sounds Awful!
Well, yes, sort of. It does suck. But that is the world in which we live at the moment, and it’s better you hear about it from me, right now, rather than after something really unfortunate happens to you.
When I started writing for HealthyPlace and putting my face up here, I had been blogging anonymously for seven years. Seven years. That really gave me a chance to consider my writing, my words and the impact. And when my picture finally did arrive on the internet, it was only after I decided that this was what I wanted to do with my life. (And in case you’re wondering, I have another work persona for non-mental-health-related work I do.)
If you don’t mind your mailman, mother, brother and boss knowing about you, then feel free, blog away. But don’t think that they won’t find you. They will. Don’t think there isn’t prejudice. There is.
It’s like anything else in life, you can do it, you just have to be willing to accept the consequences. And in this case, the consequences can be quite severe.
Tracy, N. (2011, April 17). So, You Want to Be a Bipolar Blogger - Anonymity for Bloggers, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, July 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2011/04/so-you-want-to-be-a-bipolar-blogger-anonymity-for-bloggers
Author: Natasha Tracy
This is great advice, Natasha. Thanks! It's all useful, but I'm especially glad you addressed the issue of posting to Facebook.
I'm not sure if you saw it but I just wrote about why I use a pen name: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2012/03/why-i-choose-to-write-about-men…
I would have to agree with you, especially since I am still blogging anonymously. But, at the same time, I have a very strong desire to reveal my true identity because I'm not ashamed of the fact that I have bipolar disorder. It doesn't define me. And if we are ever going to overcome stigma, then shouldn't we stand up for ourselves???
I blogged anonymously for over a year before I decided that I was tired of hiding. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1996, and as bipolar in 2001. I spent years hiding my illnesses from bosses, coworkers, and acquaintances; and it was really hard to have to be two different people. I finally decided that I'd rather deal with the consequences of being "out" than hide who and what I am any more.
It's not an easy choice, and I have been refused jobs and passed over for promotions, as well as losing "friends" (who I figure weren't really friends at all if they couldn't handle my truth. How can someone be a friend if they don't really know who you are?) I know that I'm leaving myself open to some pretty nasty comments, and that it could turn out to be physically dangerous as well, but it's actually easier for me to deal with that than it is to pretend to be someone else.
True, you should think about that. But really, if you want anonymity, you can have it, but you have to obey the above rules and a few others. And it helps to know something about technology. It just depends how paranoid you are about it.
Of course, if you were some high-ranking someone that the press cared about, well then, all bets are off.
Great blog with points anyone considering blogging, whether it's about mental illness or not, would do well to consider. However, I've long since learned that anonymity on the internet is only an illusion. The only way to stay anonymous on the internet is not to use it at all. Even then, it's no guarantee.
That said, my advice to anyone thinking about blogging publicly is to consider how they would feel if everyone - from strangers, to friends, to family, to co-workers - knew that blog was written by them, and pseudonym or not, write only if they can tolerate that reality. Because the truth is, no matter how hard you try to protect your identity, that's precisely what may happen.
You are in a tough place and you are taking a brave stance. I think on the internet there is no visible/too visible thing. At least, nothing you can guarantee. Because all it takes is one yahoo to find you and decide to make an example of you, make a cause out of you, gather a group against you and you have no control over how visible that makes you.
In the end, you just can't control visibility, only anonymity.
That being said, I certainly hope it never comes down to your worst-case scenario in court.
It sound like you've been thinking about the issues involved for you, which is definitely what I'm trying to emphasize. I agree, it's a serious decision to make.
Thank-you, that is very kind. Your words are what fight that harassment.
You are correct in the analogy of the LGBTQ community. (I'm bisexual too. It's not a secret either.)
But yes, sexuality is, _in_general_ more accepted than mental illness. (For some people, this is obviously not the case.) And while I support anyone coming out who wants to, an individual's safety and life/job/family is more important than coming out.
Silence=death I would equate more about STIs and less about sexuality in general, but then, I'm not aware of the kind of campaigns some groups use.
I more or less just wait for the day when Bob's biological father will send a family court judge a printout of every post I've written. (Of course, he'd have to come up with the cash to pay his back child support and the court fees first, so that's buying me some time.) It's a double-edged sword, really--you want to speak out because part of the problem IS the silence; but on the other hand, you don't want to be threatened, harassed, all the workplace biases you mentioned, etc. The key is visibility without being TOO visible.
It took me a year before I revealed my blog to a handful of friends. My husband is the only one who has known since the beginning about my blog, but he doesn't really read it...as far as I know. I have thought about revealing my identity, because I blog about, not just my mental illness, but food allergies, asthma, etc... but I worry that if I put my face out there, I will be labeled forever and it will affect my future.
Example, if I do a video on YouTube about a food allergy friendly recipe for cupcakes (like the food network or something - lol), that links to my site and a potential employer would find me and know that I have dysthymia and my husband's an alcoholic. That would have long term consequences that I'm not sure I can deal with.
I think it's important to take whether or not to reveal your identity VERY SERIOUSLY!
I know you have had a hard time with idiots harassing you. I know you are always bravely doing your many online jobs. I admire you greatly.
How is this different from the "silence=death" analogy for lgbt? Is it a matter of where society is now with stigma/acceptance for mental illness?
Yes, it's an individual choice for people. I think, though, most people have no idea how bad a choice it can be. They don't think ahead. And I suspect they don't think people will be a nasty as they sometimes are. (And like I said, some of it is unconscious as well.)
I see commenters all the time who are full of hate and vitriol, and gosh help you if one of them happens to be your boss.
I don't have bipolar, I have depression, but it was really a hard decision on whether or not to stay anonymous. Ultimately, I decided to blog under my real name, but it was a very hard decision to come to. I understand the consequences could be great, but I've decided that the benefits to educating those around me are greater.
That said, I respect those who want to stay anonymous. Like you said, you never know who is viewing your blog and what they think of mental illness.