Are you breaking a confidence if you post about it here, to virtual strangers?

I am curious about this after perusing a few threads here today, and in light of the umkay incident. I’m always reading people asking for advice, and in the process it often seems like they totally spill their guts about whatever their issue or problem is. Would you thus expect those other parties (in the “real” world) whom you are writing about here to be offended that you are venting about them in a public place? Or is the anonymity of the Internet a shield of sorts against such accusations? How would you feel if a loved one was venting about some personal issue between the two of you on some other forum?

I don’t think I would have a problem with it as a breach of confidence, providing the information is not so specific that other people can identify the actual people involved.

However, if my SO was writing about me on a message board, I would wonder why he felt he couldn’t just talk to me about whatever it is.


On a messageboard full of screen names, you are not 100% sure that you don’t know me, that I don’t know you or that anyone else can’t make the connections.

A confidence is a confidence. Breaking it to “strangers” is still breaking it.


Unless there are some specific details that can lead to uncovering the actual persons being talked about, then it’s pretty much the tree falling in the forest thing.

A few hundred people knowing something intimate about a completely anonymous person means shit.

No, as long as you and the person(s) you are talking about are unknown. By posting here you are discussing concepts and situations rather than specific named people.

I think no. I don’t think I have ever had occasion to post about a situation that was something I was explicitly asked to keep in confidence, but I know there have been a couple of times that I carefully reviewed and edited posts about potentially sensitive situations to make sure there was nothing identifiable or easy to connect with the actual individuals involved just in case.

So I guess that’s a no, qualified with “provided the poster takes reasonable precautions to keep the description anonymous.”

I don’t think so as long as you keep it anonymous.


I say yes you are technically breaking a confidence. However, I don’t think it’s a bad break as long as the person doesn’t also frequent the board and there are absolutely no identifying features in the post.

This is how I look at it. So long as neither the poster nor the person being discussed could be identified, it’s a moot point.

The thing is, how sure can one be of maintaining anonymity? Some people are really sharp at putting two and two together, and I’ve seen cases of someone’s real name and location being figured out. And how can you be certain that the other person isn’t a lurker, or even member, of the Dope?

ETA: Also consider: someone discusses the post on their Facebook page or blog, and the other person just happens to read that blog or know that Facebooker, and recognizes themself.


When you promise to keep a secret, telling anyone is a breach of that promise.