I see more and more posters using their own photos as avatars, and while most of those pictures are very attractive, I think it's a dangerous practice. The internet isn't really as anonymous as we all like to think it is, but if you're using your own picture as an avatar, you might as well use your own name as well. (And no, Ruby Vee is not my real, live legal name.)
This is a place for people to have questions answered, stupid or otherwise and be able to vent safely. If I come here to vent about that witch of a patient's family member who drank from the sterile saline bottle, lied about it, and then blamed the nursing staff for the horrible infection her husband got and it turns out that she reads this board because she wants to be a nurse some day, I'd be mighty glad my picture isn't up there for everyone to see. If I mention that I've seen a patient with a really rare disease, and claim it was years ago in another state and the patient was the opposite gender -- all of my colleagues would know I was REALLY talking about that patient we have on the unit right now. And if I said anything at all that someone didn't like, disagreed with or found objectionable, that post would be printed out and under the boss's door one night. I at least have plausable deniability without my face or my name out there.
I know a lot of people think they'll NEVER say anything that someone else finds ignorant, abrasive, untrue or otherwise objectionable, and therefore they're safe using their picture as an avatar. I'm here to tell you, though, that you never know what someone else may find offensive. You never know what's going to rile someone up to the point of cyber-stalking, sharing your posts with your boss (or even the one about how your husband never forgets to walk the dog when he's the first person coming home after work, and never REMEMBERS to walk the dog when you're going to be the one to walk into the house first and find the mess . . . hate to find that one printed out on our kitchen table!). You just never know. And you cannot always stop yourself -- at least I can't -- when someone posts something incredibly ignorant -- from telling them how ignorant it is.
A colleague of mine posted on allnurses about what bullies and witches all of the preceptors in our unit are, how everyone she worked with was persecuting her and how she was only going to be on the job for the minimum time possible to get into CRNA school anyway. The avatar she used wasn't her picture, but was an avatar she used for other forums and some of her "friends" at work put two and two together . . . she found herself having a chat with our manager about her extreme unhappiness with her job. I'm told it didn't go well for her.
Another colleague made a long, impassioned post about how nurses eat their young, and she knows that because she's been eaten. That post was nearly ten years ago, and she looks back on it now and cringes at how ignorant she was then. Unfortunately, at some point in the interim, she either used her picture as an avatar or posted too much information because now some of her co-workers know who she is on allnurses, and were teasing her about that post the other day. On the other hand, her orientees can never claim she's forgotten what it was like to be a brand new nurse. The evidence is out there!
Be safe, guys. Take a nice picture of a creative bumper sticker or T shirt, a flower, a mountain or your old cat (not the one all of your colleagues know because it's on your locker) and use that as an avatar instead!