Listicle Nuns: On Cul-De-Sac Catholic Social Media Evangelization
One of the “alt-right” — AKA, bigotry-lite –‘s beloved blow-up dolls did a silicone infused video hit job on me recently.
(Not sorry to put it that way — if your entire online presence is merely dedicated to belittling others, you’ve earned the rank of simulacra.)
Over 250k+ views in two weeks!
I didn’t mind, as such … any publicity is good publicity, and all that. But being nothing but appearance-assassination via digital editing — the 21st century School for Scandal strategy — is hardly worth a response. And that the speaker couldn’t pronounce ‘Aoife’ correctly a single time was rather informative. (By the way, there are YouTube vids on how to say ‘EE-fuh’.)
Far from the free speech forum YouTube feigns to be — the rhetoric is so asinine that even getting your opponent’s name correct is not a requirement in the shock-jock gibberish of social media politics. Views count, words don’t.
I segue from this preliminary thought — the broader discursive failure of social media, and specifically the dangers of emulating such trends that we, as Catholics, should abstain from. Me included. I’m trying to be less snarky and combative this Lent, but it’s not easy.
The ethical recursivity that is the Zorkian ECHO-room is to be avoided, in which every verbal perception overwhelms both speaker and hearer in its selfish presumptions of right and righteousness.
CNA Live recently featured a well-meaning listicle entitled Five Nuns To Follow for InternationalWomensDay. And their purpose is sincere, sure … promote the platforms of women religious online in order to bolster support for their circulation of the faith they tweet about. However, a glance at the list is telling … it’s anything BUT “international”.
All of the nuns featured are white, except for the stock footage of PoC Sister anonymously and namelessly posted. Ditto able-bodied. Already popular and established. All have more than enough in-flock already followers. Visibility begets visibility.
The Catholic Church by its very foundations should be intersectional, yet our social media rarely delivers the diversity that our faith lives actually encounter. And I take issue with that.
For example, the Anglophone members of the Daughters of St Paul.
Obviously, they are women who are doing great, dedicated work. But for media nuns, whose very charism is to share the vast horizon of the Gospel, they’re rather myopic in terms of broadcast. (FSP in East Asian languages is a different story.)
Like Catholic hipster votes and other metastasized parish popularity contests … many of the vocation-proclaimed ‘social media nuns’ seem far more engaged with the holy-rolling status quo, than anything close to outreach evangelization towards the margins.
In other words, if all we’re doing is upping our follow numbers by cashing in on Catholic social capital and the optics of pseudo-cool . . . then we’re doing it wrong.
What really is the effect then in treating social media as a call-response reiteration for the converted and comfortable? I mean … I love nuns. We all know that. But the twitter nun veers awkwardly close to popularity platform as opposed to seeking the needy. And the disconnect between dialogue and demagoguery in normie Catholic twitter isn’t lost on anyone outside on the inside of the preaching machine.
I know several online Sisters who must use pseudonyms because they directly reach out to LGBT persons. And scorned and held to suspicion for it. (Are they Francis Catholics??)
They shouldn’t have to hide their identities simply because of the minorities they actively and fearlessly interact with. Conversely, I’m very familiar with several Top Ten profile nuns who will DM for research, but act in public like they’ve never heard of a trans Catholic before.
From my experience, I swear even a random smile at morning mass can keep a soul from collapse. Take the risk!
Cast out to the outcast!
Because I truly do insist that it is positive to reflect openly, through social circuits, our shared witness and personal differences as Catholics.
We can’t, through indifference, vanity, or communal hygiene, maintain a preferential insistence on the market publicity of a slightly crooked but spiffy halo to present our faith as the contemporary.
That’s a secular click-driven mentality best not replicated, in any way.
The Gospel isn’t a normative cul-de-sac of interaction. Controversial outreach to the problematic, unclean, outcast/out-caste margins was the founding principle of everything Christ did. We KNOW this!
This may seem like a selfish outburst then, but my point is straightforward enough:
Normativity, sanctity, popularity, or clean social media optics were never prerequisites to whom, when, why Christ preached, “I am Love. Come to me’.
(And this is a great time to remind my Catholic online fam how your fellowship keeps me going. Thank you!).