Note: see also Online Meeting Safety and Anonymity.
Anonymity is often described as the greatest safeguard that AA could ever have to ensure its continued existence and growth. However AA is not a secret society nor are we invisible. So how does anonymity work in actual practice?
Anonymity at the personal level provides protection to new members from being recognised as alcoholics, and any disclosures to others are always the individual members own choice, meaning they may stay as private or as open as they wish. That being said, as many of us were attracted to AA by the example of another AA member, or the recommendation from our doctor, employer, neighbour or family member, we would not have known about AA if an older sober member hadn’t let other people know they were in AA and that it had worked for them.
At the level of press, radio, and film, however, anonymity is crucial for all members, irrespective of the length of sobriety, as it both protects the fellowship from ourselves, as well as keeping us humble; sacrificing personal ambition for the common good.
These days, with innovative communication technologies offering new ways to connect and carry the message, how does anonymity then work with respect to digital media and the internet?
Answers to this question can be found in AA’s pamphlet “Understanding Anonymity”, where it says:
“Publicly accessible aspects of the Internet such as websites featuring text, graphics, audio, and video can be considered the same as publishing or broadcasting. Unless password protected, a website requires the same safeguards that we use at the level of press, radio, and film. Simply put, this means that AA’s do not identify themselves as AA members using their full names and or full-face photos” (page 5).
“When we use digital media, we are responsible for our own anonymity and that of others. When we post, text or blog, we should assume that we are publishing at the public level. When we break our anonymity in these forums, we may inadvertently break the anonymity of others” (page 5).
To help protect members’ anonymity at the public level during large AA Conventions, our guidelines suggest the Convention Chairperson clearly inform attendees that:
“we respectfully ask that no AA speaker – or any AA member – is identified by full name and that no photograph is published or broadcast in reports on our meetings. This includes taking photographs and/or videos at convention social events (as well as the meetings) and publishing on social media”. AA GB 2018 Structure Handbook p.123, Conventions.
Anonymity online is so important to the future of AA, and with new challenges being presented by the proliferation and instant connectedness of social media and mobile devices, we need always remain vigilant as ours, and other members, anonymity “is so fragile, you can break it with one finger!”
Please feel free to get in touch with either myself, our ArenA Editor, our Chair, or Secretary, if you have any further questions or anonymity concerns – we would be only too glad to help.
Yours in service,
- Tradition 11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
- Tradition 12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
Editor’s note: this article has been published in accordance with our ArenA Editorial Policy.