Anonymity on Twitter

For the past 10 months, I have been PreMDPhDLife. My twitter handle, my name on my twitter, and my wordpress blog reflected on it. But for those who paid attention, I have always been Hanna. The web address listed as my website was me (http://about.me/hannalynne) and it connected you to my other twitter accounts, my LinkedIn, and my blog. My picture, while cropped, has been me (after the first couple pictures) as you can see my primary avatars below in full size. I have posted other pictures of myself that weren’t slipped but are in fact still up on my page because I never deleted the tweet. I have told you where I go to school, where I have interviewed at medical schools, and where I will be spending the next eight years of my life. I have shared videos that I have been in and I have shared my personal statements. All I had not directly told you was my name.

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I created this identity for myself to connect to the pre-med community, but even more, to show them that there are others that put in even more work than them and have an even harder program to get in to. That was an indirect way to teach others to complain less about the work required to get into medical school by trying to put it into perspective and also to appreciate how science complements clinical knowledge. Nonetheless, I acted rather arrogant at first. I did not want to be personally associated with it and that I did not want my actual friends to see, which required the new account and the anonymity and I apologize for such intentions. It was a way to vent at first, but my humility got the best of me.

I then tried the sort of general tweets that would get me retweets and follows as my focus became less on saying I’m pre-MD/PhD so I do more work and more that pre-meds need to collaborate and not argue if someone else is a princess too or whatnot. I always thought about my follower count and the number of retweets I received but tried to not openly beg for more; I wanted to earn it. This twitter also became a MCAT study tool and an application venting and support system. Now it has become my entire science and medicine community and I barely mention such things on my “more-personal” account to not bother my followers who are uninterested. I am very fortunate that through this process I have much such a great connection to so many inspired and motivated people who want to make an impact on the world just I like I do.

But really, after my initial week or so, I had no use for the anonymity. I did not try to put down others, cause drama, or make rude statements about a group of people that would require anonymity unless I was prepared to face even harsher criticism without it. And I did not want to be just another pre-med anonymous account.

I have wanted to ditch the anonymity for quite a while now and I have done my best to do so without changing the name associated with me as I have already told you. Now, I finally have had a good reason to change. Being accepted to and soon attending an M.D./Ph.D. program is a large change in my life and with that I had the opportunity to redesign my twitter identity to better fit how I want to be seen for the next eight years. I based my decision from the accounts of medical students that I look up to who do not hide their identity as they tell about their medical school experience and find the time to blog as well. I hope to inspire others like they have inspired me.

Nothing has actually changed about what I tweet. In fact, with my blogs, you have been able to find out more about me than even my best friends do because this is where I express my feelings and analysis of life.

Now, I understand there are other reasons why some people would want to be anonymous on social media – fear of misrepresenting a business or college and getting caught, for example. But I have lived as an ambassador of a well-respected organization for the past four years of my life and that has become who I am. Wherever I go, I bring the spirit and pride that I have learned from my time in the Pride of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota Marching Band. Whether I am on the field, helping a stranger with directions on the street, inebriated, sober, in uniform or not, screaming at the top of my lungs at a sporting event, presenting my research, or on social media, I am representing this organization that means the world to me. This has taught me to always be accountable for my word no matter the context and to only post what I feel is acceptable to be associated with.

score board

I changed my twitter to become less anonymous because I wanted to have a name associated with my story and be a real person to my followers. I wanted to show others all that I am so that they know that I am someone that they can trust – that I’m not tweeting things that I don’t agree with just because I think that they will retweet it or more people will follow me. I want to be a realistic role model for those who are applying to med school, grad school, or M.D./Ph.D. or aspire to do so. I am not hiding behind an anonymous name and a picture that is not myself or a picture that is little enough of me that you can’t tell what I look like. I want to be held accountable for what I say and now, you have my credentials.

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Hanna is a MD/PhD student at the University of Illinois and an aspiring physician scientist who aims to specialize in hepatobiliary cancers. She is also passionate about teaching, leadership, and advocacy. The energy she once used to pep up crowds as a college marching band member is now directed toward exciting and educating others about science and medicine, especially through her tweets at @MDPhDToBe and her blog at www.mdphdtobe.com.

Posted in General Interest
2 comments on “Anonymity on Twitter
  1. Another fabulous post! I’m not spamming you, I promise, I just saw the post about anonymity and had to read it because it’s something I’ve always wondered about. Mainly I questioned it. Why do people want to take part in this bizarre anonymous twitter activity? It has always seemed like a strange sort of culture to me, with picslips and other bizarre hashtags. I think being a genuine personality for others is more important than being something you are not for the sake of being popular. Good for you for putting yourself out there! I’ve always enjoyed your tweets/posts.

  2. mdafterphd says:

    I think you are brave. I am on the fence about the anonymity regards to my blog and twitter and such. Knowing that you have done it makes see that ditching the anonymity is not so bad idea.

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