Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Freemasonry And The Pitfalls Of Social Media

I spend a lot of time on Facebook--more than I should.  I think social media is an excellent way for Masonic Lodges and Appendent Bodies to post details of upcoming events and pass on information.  I've set up Facebook pages for both Lodges I belong to, and the Illini High 12 Club.

I've got a lot of friends on Facebook, and a lot of them are Masons--if you look through my friends list, you'll see a lot of the profile pictures are of men wearing fezzes, Scottish Rite Caps, and fedoras.  I also get invited to join a lot of Masonic groups (both open and closed).  It's amazing just how many Masonic groups are out there now--there wasn't a huge "Masonic presence" on the internet back when I first began writing, and that wasn't so long ago.  But there certainly is now.  Always the industrious Freemason, we're everywhere!  Facebook. Twitter. Blogger. Tumblr. Wordpress. Instagram.  Pinterest.  You name it, you'll find us there these days.

But I made a choice some time back as far as Facebook is concerned.  I don't represent myself as a Mason on Facebook--I don't have a Masonic profile picture, or background.  I have in the past, but I haven't for at least a couple years now.  It wouldn't be very hard to figure out I'm a Mason just by looking at a few of my pictures, or the fact I mention Masonic events on there so often.  The majority of my interactions on Facebook are with friends and they are social in nature, and we get into some interesting and often humorous exchanges.  I'm also a political junkie, and it's not unusual for me to post a political opinion (in fact, I do it quite often).  It's also pretty common for me to get into a political debate over one of those opinions I've posted--I have a lot of friends that enjoy a good debate as much as I do.  But I don't think it's appropriate to post political opinions with a big square and compass as a profile picture.  We don't discuss religion and politics in Lodge, so I felt I shouldn't do that on Facebook with a picture of me sitting in the East wearing my Master's hat as a profile picture--as if my opinion is representative of the Fraternity in some way. 

And of course, I have a lot of unruly friends, family, and acquaintances--both Masons and not.  Every so often one of them will post a comment on my wall that's of questionable taste, or repost something they thought was funny that's right on the edge.  And to be perfectly honest, most people that know me know I'm kind of obnoxious--I'm rarely a serious person and I enjoy sharing a laugh.  However, one thing I do take seriously is my affliation with Masonry, and I just didn't want anybody getting the wrong idea that my Fraternity is as unserious as I can be.

And there was another reason I made this change--it's the same reason I've dropped being a member of a few of these online Masonic forums and Facebook groups I've been invited to join.  The Internet is not a tyled lodge, and shouldn't be treated as such.  There is no way to know if everyone in a group is truly a Master Mason, and I've seen a lot of conversations in both open and closed groups that shouldn't be going on in that forum.  Masons should be using better judgement when it comes to starting discussions on the Internet that violate their obligations as a Master Mason, or participating in one.

We're Americans, and we have the right to free speech, but if you're going to represent yourself as a Mason to the world in your profile picture on Facebook and elsewhere, perhaps you should consider the topics you're discussing, the language you're using, and the things you're reposting on Facebook that could very well reflect badly on the Fraternity we all respect.

~TEC

Todd E. Creason is an author and novelist whose work includes the award-winning non-fiction historical series Famous American Freemasons and the novels One Last Shot (2011) and A Shot After Midnight (2012). He's currently working on the third novel Shot to Hell which will be released in Spring 2014. You can contact Todd E. Creason at: webmaster@toddcreason.org 

5 comments:

  1. I wrote an article for the Midnight Freemasons, "The Day I Quit Facebook." (I didn't really quit, but you'll notice you don't see me there much). I didn't submit the article because it was too much of a rant. You've said it better. Suffice it to say Facebook has become a forum many people use to proudly show how uninformed and insecure they are.

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    1. I'm either going to do what you did, and cut way back on it, or I'm going to learn to use it a little more constructively (like I used to). I waste entirely too much time on there that I could better spend on other things.

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  2. Brother... I must say that I try to be careful of how I present myself. Yet, this is very good information. We all know how you can get into very interesting conversations. I hope all is well with you brother.

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  3. I think you always have to remember "nihil novi sub sole." There's nothing new under the sun. Freemasons have long had to be aware that when you wear a masonic ring or have a masonic emblem on your car, it's a responsibility as you are representing the fraternity to the world. But these things have never prohibited us from parking our car at a political rally or wearing our ring in church. We are men with strong values and that tends to make us opinionated, what makes us different, and what we should always make clear is that we can come together despite our differences and work for the common good. As long as that is clear I’m happy with a brother posting his political opinions on a page even if his installation is his cover photo.

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  4. Morning. Thanks for your comment. The point about political conversations was only one point of several. Masons are men of strong values, and we should keep that in mind when we're presenting ourselves to the public as Masons. I'm sure if it was a school teacher or a minister having these discussions on Facebook his/her school board or church congregation would be pointing it out as well. As I said, we all have the freedom of speech and the right to our opinions, but if you're going to represent yourself to the world as a Mason, maybe you should be sure the things you post reflect the values of that organization. If you want to talk about your Saturday Night at the strip club, maybe you should consider your Brothers and your Lodge before you go into so much detail. Use a little common sense in other words.

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