Q.
I’m a bit confused. Is it okay to show your last name/surname in a virtual OA meeting? I thought it was not consistent with our Traditions, but a longtime member believes it is okay to share last names within the Fellowship, including in virtual meetings.

A.
To answer your question, I quote below selections from the chapter on Tradition Twelve in The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, Second Edition.

“To be anonymous in OA means to be one among many, to accept ourselves as no better or worse than our fellows. . . . We find ourselves listening intently to people whose last names we don’t know. . . . We listen because we identify with them. We’ve learned that they may say something that can help our recovery.

“We often go on a first-name basis in OA meetings, not because we’re embarrassed about our OA membership, but because last names simply aren’t important” (pp. 164–65).

Further, anonymity is not the same thing as secrecy. As The Tools of Recovery pamphlet (#160) says, “It is not a break of anonymity to use our full names within our OA groups or service bodies” (p. 5). When we fully identify ourselves, many of us have found it is easier to carry out our service work and to reach out to one another when we need help.

Having said that, I want to remember a few things for myself:

  • It’s okay for me to use my full name, but it is not okay for someone else to use my full name if I haven’t.
  • If I choose to use my full name, I’ll want to check my motives. For instance, if my last name is the same as that of a political leader, or a department store, or a movie star, even if I’m not related, am I using my last name because of perceived prestige? Or am I using it so I can be truly available to still-suffering compulsive eaters? Do I listen to people differently if their last name seems to be prestigious?
  • If someone has their last name on their videoconference profile, do I gloss over it, knowing what’s important is not that person’s last name but their experience, strength, and hope for finding recovery in OA?
  • Is the virtual tool I am using considered “other public media of communication” (Tradition Eleven)?

It’s important for me to check whether my own motives are clear and my behavior is appropriate. I hope this is helpful.