My bio on the site used to read:
“I have been practicing physical therapy in the Northeast United States since 2000. I have experience in the school-based, outpatient and home care settings. My interests lie in science-based medicine, skepticism, and reason.”
It was nice, short and didn’t belabor anything. But after a weekend at a conference where various people approached me to introduce themselves and thanked me for my writings and asked me why I remained anonymous, I began to think about my lack of “brand-strategy” for my blog. What purpose does my blog serve? Is my anonymity beneficial or harmful to my online reputation and contributions – as limited as they may be? Is it time to become Keith P@#$%&, PT?
This blog started as a small exercise to see if I could write a few words daily, inspired equally by Seth Godin and Barrett Dorko. It took less than 6 months for me to realize that I didn’t always have something to say, and if I forced a posting, it never felt right. Also, there were times when I had far more to say than a short posting could afford me; the format that I had arbitrarily selected had become self limiting…so I moved my old postings here to Keith’s Korner, without the rules.
Over time though, I have discovered that what was once an exercise without consequences (no one actually read my damned postings) has grown into something different altogether. I now have a large (for me) twitter following (which is still incredibly small by the standards of any successful blogger) and I find that I am not only writing about what is of interest to me, but I also find myself trying to consider what may be of interest to my limited number of readers. It occurs to me that if I keep ‘publishing’ something that someone else considers to be quality, my readership may expand.
As I laid in bed last weekend, coping with a 3-hour time change while my roomates continued to sleep peacefully, I found myself considering a few questions: To what end do I continue to write? What can an anonymous blogger reap from such labors? If I were to unveil myself to the world, is there any reason to do so beyond feeding or expanding my own ego?
Fast forward less than one week; I came across a blog posting from Alan J Taylor, titled Forget gurus, the cult of the evidence-based blogger has taken over … ‘Biased BLOG Bingo’. Mr Taylor remarks:
“…blogging is a strange and precarious pastime/hobby/profession, which is both time and thought consuming. So, unless they are getting paid for it, one would have to debate what motivates the ardent blogger. Shouldn’t they have just gone out for a run or cycle ride or something?
What would actually drive someone to spend valuable time writing and airing their thoughts on any topic? What drives them to risk an avalanche of comment/critique if their particular diatribe hits the wrong button, or perhaps, a rising tide of gushing agreement from the ‘Bloggioso’ or the ‘Twitterati’ for their latest fashionable and populist masterpiece?”
As it turns out, if you keep your eyes open on the internet, you will probably find something that strongly resonates with your thoughts and feelings – Mr Taylor’s posting served as a prime example. Later, he lists for the reader a variety of blogger types for their consideration including (1) the altruistic/educational/hobby blogger, (2) the student blogger, (3) the Snake-Oil seller, (4) Society/Organization ‘news’ blogs, (5) EBM proponent/Targeted Attacker, (6) the evangelical blogger and (7) the frustrated, change agent blogger. If you read blogs for professional input/information, I strongly encourage you to reflect on the types of blogs you frequent and (maybe) think about playing a game of Biased BLOG Bingo (a card is provided for your game-playing on Taylor’s blog.)
Taylor goes on to describe the altruistic/educational/hobby blogger:
Blogs about a variety of topics of interest to potential readership. Evidence based, educational conduit, who likes to hear the sound of his/her voice … Keeps up to date and an open mind, avoids extremism and generally goes out of his/her way to avoid bias, May throw in some controversy for interest, but sticks to honest appraisals of the evidence. Likes a little devilish humour and for folks to read his/her blog. No commercial interests, no adverts, no shop. Altruistic, ego driven, no nonsense profile builder. Moderate use of social media (SoMe) to promote blogs. Checks blog metrics occasionally. Likes to be asked to ‘guest blog’. Secretly hopes for a trip to Hawaii to speak on his/her latest blog topic. Conflict of interest – Nil of note. Has had a book ‘in the pipeline’ for 15 years.
Yep. That’s me.
But wait – if my ego drives me (to some extent) to desire more followers/readers, then what benefit is there in remaining KeithP, PT? Anonymity, in many respects, holds me back. Look, for instance, at my recent exchange with a news personality on twitter. I (initially) had no credibility whatsoever as a random, anonymous therapist trying to engage in conversation on social media. Perhaps if I had worked to develop a reputation online or added a bunch of superfluous letters to my credentials…maybe then I would engender more respect.
So, why not Keith P@#$%&, PT? To this question, I have (what I consider) a few compelling answers:
- Nocebo: My identity online, for better or worse, is closely related to/interconnected with my activity as a member of SomaSimple. While I understand and appreciate that SomaSimple can be a polarizing environment among therapists, since June 25, 2011 it has been my online home. SomaSimple is where I have ‘cut my teeth’ with regards to critical thinking; it is where I continue to posit questions and engage in professional dialogue/conversation, much of which is filled with inquiry fueled by what I consider to be healthy doubt and uncertainty. I fear the consequences if a patient were to search for my name and were to have access to all of my inner-most thoughts with regards to the profession of physical therapy. The confidence that I purposefully exude in each home, with each patient and caregiver, would immediately be drawn into question.
- Employment: I have written a few honest, but dissonant, things about my previous employer, who continues to wield influence in the very small, close-knit geographical locale in which I continue to live and work; while I am gainfully employed at this time, I prefer to not burn bridges.
- Therapeutic Alliance: I often write about patients who are actively receiving care – it is when I am working with a patient that I am often most compelled to share something on the blog; it can be cathartic. I am always careful to change names, modify age, and also include inaccurate demographic details to preserve both the patient’s anonymity and my own. But, again, if a patient were to be able to search for me online, and then read of their own clinical case on the blog…well…any effort made to establish a relationship with a patient will have been for naught.
So, here I remain, torn between my desire to feed my ego and the desire to have the freedom to express myself most openly.
When I openly shared my conflicted thoughts regarding my online identity with Carolyn, an attendee at the conference last weekend, she kindly listened as I weighed aloud the pros and cons of being more open online. Without thinking too hard, she replied, “So, you are the Daft Punk of PT!” After briefly gazing upward in thought, I nodded with satisfaction. “I think I like that,” I replied.
I am KeithP, PT; I own my anonymity and will continue to write and share my thoughts respectfully and with care, as if my full name were attached and available for all to see. For now, I choose that my ego to continue to take a back seat. Perhaps I may write something of importance one day. Maybe not. Either way, I am happy to have a place to share an occasional thought and I am appreciative to those who choose to spend a few moments of their busy lives reading my blog to see what I may have to say.