The ability for internet users to be anonymous has made possible a virtual world where courtesy and tact are notably absent. Trolls and flame wars abound; insults and knee-jerk reactions are the norm. To be online as your true identity immediately makes you kinder and more civil. It also makes you more credible.
So why do I write this blog anonymously?
I've been thinking about this and the answer is that I am not ready for eczema to be a part of the public me. Ha, you may say, it already is; it's written on the backs of your hands, the insides of your elbows, the backs of your knees in the eternal cycle of inflammation, sores, scabs, and scratch marks. It's there on your face for all to see in the red, itchy patches you get because of a pollen allergy.
But to see my eczema for yourself, you have to see me in person. And I don't make it easy--I wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers and rarely visit the pool or beach.
These days, however, your personality and public appearance do not consist merely of what you act like and look like on any given day. They're augmented and almost supplanted by your online persona in emails, websites, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. And you relinquish control to anything you put online. It's immediately recorded and archived and made searchable to everyone for eternity.
Any of my Facebook "friends," any business contact, any future employer, any government agency potentially has the ability to see my entire online personality. (Oh, sure, you think you've put some restrictions on those images and updates, but a sudden glitch can make the private public, as I found out the other day when I Googled myself and saw a photo of my son at one year old--a photo that was supposedly part of a private Picasa archive.)
If you have any degree of internet savvy, you know that you're always curating your own personal brand in anything you put online. You're choosing what to present. And eczema is an unsightly, embarrassing affliction that I choose not to include in my true personal brand at the moment.
Just think: how many celebrities do you know of who have eczema? How many celebrity spokespeople are there? I know of only one: Sasha Vujacic of the LA Lakers. He's adopted eczema as a cause because of a connection with Eric Kageyama, whose son Jarrett suffers from severe eczema.
I think it's a lot easier for parents of children with eczema to go public than it is for adults who have the condition. You're not embarrassed about putting yourself out there for your child. You have little to lose. The adult with eczema, however, has something to lose: social standing. It's unfortunate but there it is. In this way, although one is blameless for being afflicted, having eczema is like being an alcoholic or a sex addict--something you're only ready to reveal to fellow sufferers.
So that's why I blog anonymously.
[added later] I think the same phenomenon prevents many of us from connecting via social media. If you've got an established online personality, you probably don't want other people to know that you're finding tweets or blog posts about eczema interesting--so you don't "like" them or otherwise pass them along, unless you create an avatar, a separate anonymous identity, for yourself.