On Being Perverse

A light-hearted post for Friday, I thought. Something that nods vaguely in the direction of today’s reading from the Rule of St Benedict (the seventh step of humility, RB 7. vv 51–54) and its insistence that we should be modest about ourselves, not in a Uriah Heep way, but genuinely. But, alas, I made the mistake of looking at a news web site where a large photo of President Donald Trump stared back at me and there was mention of his latest problems with Twitter.

Now, I have to admit that Mr Trump’s doings and sayings often enthrall me, but not usually in a good way. I feel rather the same about the doings and sayings of Mr Johnson, our Prime Minister. But many people think that, because I’m a nun, I shouldn’t have an opinion about politicians, and if I do, I ought not to express it; so may I be perverse instead?

You will have noticed that, in addition to the verified Twitter accounts of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, there are, at any one time, usually a number of parody accounts. Some have caught the tone of their originals so well that one has to look twice to be sure one is reading a parody, not the real thing. I find that disconcerting at times. In the same way, I find the adoption of aliases also a little vexing. Coming from someone who has been using ‘Digitalnun’ as her pseudonym since the late 1980s, my objection is rather illogical, but I said I was being perverse.

I wonder about some of the aliases chosen. Is ThomasAquinas (not to be confused with Fr Thomas Aquinas O.P.) really a Thomist after the Angelic Doctor’s heart? Does God truly speak for God, and are the utterances of the Twitter Jesus anything like those of our Lord and Saviour? (The answer in all three cases is ‘no’.) To take a great name and use it for oneself suggests modesty (good) but can be misleading (bad) or even a little silly (like a baby trying to emulate the grandiloquence of Dr Johnson). It depends in each case.

So, here is my apology for a thought this morning. If you use an alias for your social media accounts, why? Are you honouring someone you admire, trying to be funny or hiding your own identity out of fear of repercussions? I’m not sure how to answer that question myself. Digitalnun seemed a good idea at the time. I’ve always liked the anonymity of the ‘by a Benedictine of . . . ‘ approach. Perhaps I should re-think, too. Then at least I could argue that I wasn’t being perverse.

Happy St Boniface’s Day!

Audio version


17 thoughts on “On Being Perverse”

    • But at least he has a sense of humour. Unlike the majority of the dour Trad Catholics, especially the (American) ones who give themselves Latinate aliases (presumably because they think it makes them sound intelligent?), and then argue “science” has discovered frankincense has cleansing properties, like tree tree oil, so we can all get back to Mass as normal (Tridentine Rite, of course) with lots of incense, and it’ll all be OK…

  1. What a delightful and well written piece. You are a very good writer indeed.

    Thank you for entertaining me for a short moment – and giving me something to think about as I travel through this day.

  2. My name is common and my surname even more so so my identifier or alias is, hopefully, unique but hopefully, not totally hiding my identity. For quite a number of years I have used my initials phonetically as jayengee, sometimes with numbers after it. On Twitter one John Green is in a major position in the Apostleship of the Sea and where I worked there were a lot of people sharing my surname and quite a few using my first initial but no one else used both my forenames.

    This week I did a click and collect shop at Sainsbury’s and the colleague was helpfully putting my shopping in the boot (I was masked and gloved) when I said ‘I didn’t order this’. ‘Oh, he said’, checked his list and there were three different Greens collecting orders in that one hour time slot. ‘Next time’, he said, ‘could I choose another name’? I wonder if Sainsburys would allow me to use Jayengee?!

    In the past, on a newspaper site, I was using my proper name when another person with a totally different perspective on life started using the same name. Why they allowed it I’ve no idea, but I immediately changed my username so I was again unique and could not be accused by others of holding opinions and views that I didn’t. Politically I know that you and I are different but we share the same faith and affiliation and, I suspect, a similar sense of humour.

    PS I love the name Digital Nun, but I rather suspect there are a lot of Digital Oblates aroumd, even if no one has chosen that particular moniker!

    Hugs and prayers,


  3. I think Digitalnun is an excellent pseudonym for your social media work. It conveys something of who you are and what you do. In any case it is not difficult (through a quick look at the iBenedictines website to find out the name by which you are known in your order. As far as the parody accounts of Trump and Johnson are concerned, I sometimes think the real accounts are parodies.

  4. Have to say I rather like “Digitalnun”. (As plain “Sheila Day,” and no sort of an expert on online “things”, I wonder if I should adopt the opposite end of the spectrum and post as “UNdigitalnun”….but maybe not….!)

  5. The words of the hymn come to mind – “Perverse and foolish oft I strayed…” You may purport to being perverse, Sister, but your musings are never foolish.

  6. Well, that made me think! I use MiceElf on a number of sites (including this one to comment) but that’s not because I’m ashamed of my opinions but because I run the parish Twitter account which isn’t me but the parish, and because I was a JP for 30 yrs and mustn’t bring my personal opinions into the public sphere. My Twitter handle is obvious to those who know me but not to those who don’t. My political views are pretty trenchant and I self censor on the parish account! Although not on promoting Laudato Si and matters of social justice. And I regularly retweet your words of wisdom.
    The other reason though, and this is very sad, is because feminist views attract abuse, and I can’t deal with the fear and upset that the abuse causes. I block those angry and abusive responses, but I’m glad they don’t know who I am.
    And finally, thank you for your always thought provoking and highly intelligent and profound posts. They matter more to so many than you will ever know.

    • Thank you for your generous reply. I understand only too well the dangers inherent in a woman’s using her real identity online — and the need to separate one’s private opinions from the institutional/corporate. I think we’ll have to go on being MiceElf and Digitalnun for the foreseeable future. 🙂

  7. Oh dear Sister I am guilty of referring to you “the” Digitalnun – surely there can’t be an(y) other? And it was only when I said the name “MiceElf” out loud that I realised what a good and clever name had been devised…. inspired. Happy Feast Day!

    • I like to think I’m unique, of course, but there has been a little confusion in the past. I think I adopted ‘Digitalnun’ earlier than ‘Digital Nun’ did her version. 🙂 Yes, MiceElf is very witty.

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