Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Knowing When To Speak, And When To Be Silent

"The difference between a smart man and a wise man is that a smart man knows what to say, a wise man knows whether or not to say it."

~Unknown

I must tell you.  I'm saddened by what social media has become, and I'm very disappointed on a regular basis by the conduct of Freemasons on social media.  I wrote a piece about it recently on the Midnight Freemasons.  Over the weekend, I saw the Odd Fellows had picked up on what I'd said, and covered the subject of Odd Fellows on social media as well.

It's a problem without a doubt.

When I first got involved in writing about Freemasonry back in about 2006 or so, there wasn't much of a Freemasonry presence on the internet--there were a few of us out there, but not many.  But in those small groups, there was a meaningful exchange of ideas and resources, I made innumerable contacts, and in a few closed forums, we had marvelous discussions about Freemasonry.

It's become something quite different today.  If you want to know why Freemasonry has such a difficult time attracting new members, you don't have to look very far--just look at how Freemasons behave on social media these days.  It is something that has been on my mind a lot lately.

Last week, on the Facebook page of one of our Fraternity's most notable researchers, I saw a Freemason viciously attack another Freemason.  The man attacked is an expert in one field in particular, and he was attacked on the very topic he is a leading expert on!  Seriously, if you have a question on this particular topic, this is the "go to guy" in our Fraternity.  It went on and on, one attack after another from this same hostile Brother, until our researcher finally came back to Facebook and saw what was going on in his absence and put an immediate stop to it.  He basically said if this Brother said one more word he'd take down the entire post and possibly end his ability to post on his page.  I applaud his handling of that situation once he became aware of it.

Sadly, examples like that are all too common these days.  I constantly see well-known Freemasons posting controversial topics for the purpose of creating conflict--and then they sit back and watch.  Yup, Freemasons are out there trolling other Freemasons.  Now they'll tell you they're "moderating a discussion" or "bringing awareness to an important topic."  That's nonsense and they know it.  What they're doing is creating a forum for conflict, dissension, and incivility.  And that's exactly what it becomes more often than not.

I stumbled into one of those recently.  I knew better, but I thought I could make a good point in the discussion.  As a historian I actually know stuff--facts and such.  I did make an excellent point and then had my opinion called "childish and naive."  But that's not an insult according to the Freemason that said it, and he would know as he was quick to point out, because he is a Grand Lodge web moderator and member of the Leadership Committee (I won't say which jurisdiction).  Yes, I know.  The irony.  And we wonder why we have these social media issues when the moderators and leaders become part of the problem--the ones that are supposed to be the adults in the room.

I've not always been innocent in all of this.  I have opinions, and until recently, I believed I had a right to express them.  I don't do it to start arguments, I do it because I enjoy discussing different points of view--and I do enjoy debate.  Up until a few years ago, we had some really good discussion on *gasp* politics and world events--they were polite, they were civil, and nobody left the discussion angry.  Those days are over.  You can't debate on social media, and it's pointless to try.  If you post a picture of an American flag these days you're probably going to draw fire. 

In the last several weeks, I've been reevaluating how I use social media, and I've taken a step back.  I tried to think of one thing I've seen on social media that has had any meaning to me, or one discussion I've had on Facebook in recent memory that I gained anything from (or felt good about afterwards)--I was unable to find a single example in recent history.  I unfollowed, unfriended, and blocked about 300 people from my Facebook page--well known spewers of vitriol.  Sadly, many were Freemasons.

I'm using social media sparingly--I expect to use it even more sparingly going forward.  No more trolls.  Not dealing with nasty comments on my homepage, and I'm not leaving any opinions anywhere else either. 

Social media has such tremendous power to do good--that was my experience in the very beginning.  Unfortunately, few are using it like that anymore.  I urge you to think about how you're using it.  Think of the things you say, the things you share, and how you're interacting with others--especially if you're a Freemason.  Think about your motives for posting a particular item--learn to moderate yourself.  We're supposed to be men of good character--leaders in our communities, mentors, and builders.

Too many of us are acting like children on the playground--and too many more of us aren't doing what we should do by stepping up and showing a little leadership by pulling them aside and offering wise counsel in regards to their public conduct. And we should be doing that, and I'm certainly going to be doing that going forward.  A few bad actors can do serious harm to the reputation of our time honored institution, and I'm afraid a few already have. 

~Todd E. Creason

*CORRECTION*  I had said in this piece that one of my opinions was called "childish and naive"   That was incorrect, my opinions were called "silly and naive."  I'd like to thank the person who pointed out this glaring inaccuracy for helping me make my point.  Using the terms "silly and naive" isn't any better or any more polite than using the terms "childish and naive."  My point was that it was unnecessary to use those terms at all.     

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