My Brief History on the Internet.

The first time I posted my writ­ing on the inter­net was in 1997. I cre­ated a web­site about The Evo­lu­tion of Mickey Mouse. It was based on a report I wrote in high school about the small mam­mal. My research for this report entailed sev­eral vis­its to the library to scroll through mul­ti­ple rolls of micro­film (do kids these days even know what micro­film is?) to find arti­cles that described the mouse dur­ing his hey­day. I decided to put my find­ings on the inter­net so other peo­ple wouldn’t have to dig through can­is­ters of micro­film. That Mickey Mouse web­site did well: For a short period of time, back when the Yahoo! search engine reigned supreme and Google was new, the site was ranked #2 with the search terms “Mickey Mouse”.1 Chil­dren from the world over sent me e-mails with instruc­tions to “say hi” to Mickey Mouse. The inter­net was a sweet and inno­cent place.

My first blog was hosted on Open Diary. It was late 2000 and I was a med­ical stu­dent. I used a nom de plume that now causes me some mild embar­rass­ment. I wanted to record my expe­ri­ences in med­ical train­ing. This was not a new prac­tice for me: In junior high, high school, and col­lege, I filled the college-ruled pages of dozens of spiral-bound note­books with my thoughts. To my knowl­edge, there weren’t many med­ical stu­dents blog­ging at that time. Other Open Diary users read my writ­ing, seemed to enjoy it, and expressed inter­est in what hap­pens in med­ical school. Writ­ing for an audi­ence was fun. The inter­net was a social and friendly place.

Open Diary used fixed tem­plates. While I knew that the sub­stance of the writ­ing was para­mount, I wanted more style on the screen. That’s when I moved my writ­ing to Blog­ger (still owned by Pyra Labs at that time) and adopted the title “intueri: to con­tem­plate”. That would remain the name of my blog for six to seven years. I dropped my nom de plume and started using my first name. No one could fig­ure out who I am with just my first name, right? And even if they do, who’s gonna care?

I wrote about my expe­ri­ences in med­ical school… and then about my expe­ri­ences in res­i­dency. My blog moved off of Blog­ger and I bought my own domain. I used Mov­able­Type for a few years. I then tried Word­Press and have used it since. I read Instapun­dit and he posted an e-mail I sent to him. Ezra Klein, before he became Ezra Klein, called me “one of the web’s most grace­ful prose stylists“. I hosted Grand Rounds a few times.2 I started meet­ing peo­ple who read my writ­ing online. The inter­net was a dynamic and excit­ing place.

I started feel­ing ambiva­lent about writ­ing online. I closed down com­ments because anony­mous peo­ple left state­ments like, “ALL PSYCHIATRISTS SHOULD DIE” and “YOURE A PSYCHIATRIST, YOU KILL CHILDREN”. A physi­cian who wrote a blog under a pseu­do­nym was revealed in court. I wor­ried that my writ­ing wasn’t fic­ti­tious enough, that maybe my sto­ries weren’t purely coin­ci­den­tal. My mind gen­er­ated cat­a­stro­phes: Some­one might read a story and think I was talk­ing about them! They would sue me and I would lose my license! Other doc­tors would judge me! I would never recover! Even if I did, one of those com­menters who hate psy­chi­a­trists would then kill me!

So I shut down that blog. The inter­net was a scary and dan­ger­ous place.

I moved to New York City. A man who was liv­ing there had been read­ing my blog for a few years. He sug­gested that we meet. We dated. We even­tu­ally got mar­ried in Cen­tral Park.

I couldn’t not write. Nearly two years had passed since I had posted any of my writ­ing online. I decided to start another blog, though I did not want to write in fear. In White Ink revealed my full name. (Noth­ing bad hap­pened.) The first post appeared there in 2010. The inter­net was not dan­ger­ous place, though not an inno­cent place, either. The inter­net was a place to learn.

I pur­chased this domain name, mariayang.org, that same year. Would you believe that it took nearly four years for me to build the courage to finally occupy the space?

Next time: Occa­sion­ally asked ques­tions about blog­ging as a physician.


  1. Disney.com, of course, came up first if you searched for “Mickey Mouse”.
  2. If you know what Grand Rounds is, that shows your blog­ging age.