Social Media Is Killing Freemasonry?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Robert H. Johnson





“I think you ought to think about that…” That’s what he said to me after the meeting. I guess I should explain. After a meeting one night, I was talking to one of my mentors after I took a rather silly photo with another brother. The mentor said, “You know, I think you might want to slow down on this internet posting.”

Shortly before he said that, I had made mention that this picture would be all over the web by morning. I was joking of course, but it had an effect on my mentor. He went on, “You know the issue with your Entered Apprentices getting accosted by this clandestine lodge and things of that nature, it bothers me a great deal.” I asked him “How so? I didn’t cause that confrontation, I just wrote about it.” I was of course referring to the incident which took place last month. You can read about it here.

My mentor said, “You did cause that confrontation. You took a picture with the new EA and posted it on our Facebook Page.” “I guess I did, didn’t I?” I replied. I thought about it for a moment and I also thought about how many of these types of photos were indeed out there, pictures of new candidates, new Master Masons, etc. Heck, even the Grand Lodge of Illinois had a picture of someone taking their obligation right on the web and on the cover of its magazine. So how was this any different and how was this particular case an issue?

My mentor once again continued, “I know we do some silly things sometimes and I know we are all human, but do we want to show those things to the public? Do we want to be associated with the same type antics that biker clubs have and that sort of thing? We’re supposed to be this classy organization and yet it only takes one screw up, one photo or one person to get the wrong idea and it hurts the entire fraternity.”

He talked about a few other things, mostly about what personal information we as masons share on social media outlets. Personal family stories or anecdotes, and he asked if ultimately those things could have a potential to hurt the fraternity. It really made me think. Do I post too much? Should we be posting photos of our new Brothers, Fellows and Masters? Should we share images of our events?

After thinking about this, I realize that I just don’t know. I probably will be more selective about what I share on social media platforms. There is a Social Media Code of Conduct for Freemasons in some states, but Illinois isn’t one of them. I don’t think, however what we are talking about here is necessarily the issues to which that document is supposed to govern.

When we share these kinds of candid lodge photos, do we run a chance of someone getting the wrong impression and going after the fraternity for the wrong reasons? Are we playing Russian roulette? Should we guard the candid shots from finding their way to web?

~RHJ



Bro. Robert Johnson, 32°is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois. He is the Master of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 and Education officer for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies Royal Arch, Cryptic Council, Knights Templar, AMD, The Illinois Lodge of Research and a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago as well as a charter member of the Society of King Solomon, a charity organization run by the Grand Lodge of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. In addition, he produces video shorts focusing on driving interest in the Fraternity and writes original Masonic papers from time to time. He is also a cohost of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of three. He works full time in the safety industry and is also a photographer on the side as well as an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays.


10 comments:

  1. I would argue just the opposite. Social media is one of the greatest tools at our disposal that will allow not only ourselves to communicate to our Brothers what we’re doing but allow us to potentially attract an audience that Freemasonry hasn’t been scratching their heads trying to figure out how to get them to ask. We constantly show potential candidates old photographs of George Washington and FDR but never show them the younger side of Freemasonry or even the older side of Freemasonry having true fellowship. Freemasonry’s image is filled with historical pictures and photographs of guys in the 20’s having fun. Well, guess what, that’s what social media does today. Brothers, if someone posts a picture that sheds a bad light on our Fraternity, then someone should pull that Brother aside. But guess what, that Brother probably wears a ring and does the same thing. Don’t blame social media, blame the Brother.

    Twitter, Facebook, Intagram are all tools that allow us to quickly spread the word about Freemasonry and can be a great avenue to attract more members. I agree that what happens in a tiled Lodge is not to be shared with the world, but a Tweet about a Lodge meeting or a Facebook posting showing Brotherly love or relief goes a long way. The same person who argues that social media hurting us is the same person who argues about why would a Lodge need a web site! Rather than sticking our head in the sands about something that isn’t going anyway, why not embrace is like the Grand Lodge of England has? Their website, Twitter feed, and YouTube provides excellent images and postings of what Freemasonry is and can be and has been a valuable instrument for attracting good men. My Lodge has adopted social media and has found it to be a great resource to get someone to ask as well a vital tool for keeping Brothers up to date and coming back to Lodge. Should we rely on post cards and postings in the newspaper to inform our community what our Lodge is doing? How many people still read a newspaper? But ask someone how many times they check their Facebook / Twitter feed PER DAY and you’ll be shocked.

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  2. His argument is invalid... I think, as evident by this blog site alone, social media has allowed for the dissemination of information and even the surge of the Masonic Esoteric Movement. Social media has stretched our Cable-Tow to lengths not imagined before.

    Yeah, we are guys and hang out with our buddies through a common bond of freemasonry. We are guys, we screw around with each other and have a good time once in a while. I think as long as the picture doesn't make Masonry or the Lodge look bad or is offensive, sharing it across social media only helps to spread the cement of Brotherly Love. It shows other within the Craft that it is okay to loosen the tie a little and actually enjoy the Brotherhood. To the profane, it shows them that we are just regular dudes having a good time and may entice some to knock o the outer door and see what the rest of it is about.

    How many of us here at MFM have had the personal messages about helping someone decide to fill out a petition?

    I say, post away.

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  3. It started out as a positive thing, but I've seen a few changed in the last couple years--and I've been out here for a long, long time. It seems to me it's become a free-for-all. There is seriously bad information out there. There are online forums overrun with clandestine Masons. There are arguments over nonsense that lack civility and good taste. There are discussions going on that aren't only inaccurate, but should never be taking place in public (untyled) forums. I don't think this technology always paints Freemasons in a good light. I've left a good many groups recently for just those reasons. There are blogs and websites that are doing a good job--I think this is one of them. But since I started this blog in about 2006 or 2007, this has gone from being just a few of us out here, to being a very crowded field and to be honest, I don't think the majority of these forums do a very good job. And it becomes very difficult even for somebody like me that has a history background and has studied Freemasonry more than the average Masons certainly to be able to tell what's the truth and what's being inaccurately repeated over and over again. I don't know how you police that when it's so prevalent.

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  4. The argument is just an excuse... shifting the blame... maybe if the "older generation" gave the new Brothers what they were looking for back then, we wouldn't have so many empty chairs now...

    Seems like they want to push the blame off on someone else rather than take the responsibility for their own failures... The same generation is why some states still don't recognize PHA Lodges or allow those Brothers visitation.

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  5. You all have great points. I think at a point we need to ask ourselves, "What is freemasonry?" And if we say, it's among the likes of other Esoteric orders, and make no mistake, we are esoteric, we should look at those other orders. AMORC, OTO, GD, none of these guys are posting anything. Why? Because maybe the attention we want, the people we want to attract, are those with a genuine pull to the order, uninfluenced by social media posts and other sources.

    That's just one small example of something I've been thinking about. To be clear, I have nothing against pictures of public events or some new candidates with the Master and bros. I see nothing wrong with promoting events. I do have issues with what Todd brought up. Groups like "All Things "butt hurt" Masonic". Pardon the joke, but that's all it seems to be anymore. These groups that have ridiculous public conversations about the most inane topics.

    To that end, it spreads across social media platforms when we share what was in a group to your "public" lists of friends and followers. This is the danger. Some masons have hundreds of public followers and believe me, if one of them posts anything inappropriate, say a personal story which might be fine for friends and family but now has the potential of casting a light on ALL masons because you shared it publicly.

    This is a danger, perception is reality and if someone feels what you posted is inappropriate, then it is. There is a reason several Grand Lodges passed Social Media Codes of Conduct for Masons. Again I think the first comment up there from 311, is good but I think you lost what I was saying. I'm not against promoting the craft, I'm against people acting and posting things which may be construed as inappropriate by some and what may be considered inappropriate to be shared with the profane. The key here is balance.

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  6. http://freemasoninformation.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Social_Media_Code_of_Conduct.jpg

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  7. I can't say I've ever seen, or heard of, any drama unfolding here (in Indy) from any Masonic postings on social media. Or even any negative stuff. In fact when I shared my Midnight Freemasons post a few months ago when it went live I had several people on twitter and via my facebook message me asking questions about what Freemasonry is which was nice because they ranged from thinking it was a religion to a cult to a religious group to a bunch of old men drinking beer Flitstones style.

    I just can't see a photo of some Brothers posing hurting. That's like saying "Oh, you better not put your wedding photos online, it's sure to lead to divorce!!!"

    And to the states with the code of conduct, the one linked in the article wouldn't even fly here:


    "Do not identify any Freemason as a member of the Craft unless he has provided his conssent, or has already identified himself as such."

    Well, the Valley here publishes in the magazine (which is free online to the public) all new members to the Valley and the Indiana Freemason Magazine (from the Grand Lodge) regularly posts photos of members at various events (and I doubt there is a signed release from every one of them).

    Some people are just uptight, or even ashamed of their activities of choice. Methinks that Brother doesn't want anyone knowing what he does in his free time and if that's the case, maybe Freemasonry isn't for that Brother.

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  8. Ryan,

    Respectfully, I disagree with your final point, that "maybe Freemasonry isn't for that Brother." That isn't for anyone to decide but that Brother. Even though good reasons for concealing (or, more accurately, not advertising) his membership in the Craft have not occurred to you, it does not follow from that that none exist.

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  9. The WM of my Lodge specifically asked me if it was okay to post photographs of me when I went through EA. I had no problem with it, however I did appreciate that he asked prior to posting the photos. I do have people in my family who do not have a favorable impression of the fraternity due to religious misunderstandings. I don't personally have any problem with them, or anyone else knowing that I am a Mason but I can understand some brothers not wanting the extra attention. It is a matter of personal preference and we need to be mindful of the rights of our brothers images to not be shared on social media. Great article, I actually learned a lot about clandestine Masonry which I didn't know before...never even considered that there were lodges for profit out there.

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  10. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info. Great Website

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