by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
Gregory J. Knott 33°
More than one article on this blog site has been written about our concerns about social media and the impact on society it is having today. For myself, these concerns have only deepened over time as I see what is happening on sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and the contribution to what I consider a sharp moral decline in our communities. The nearly unfiltered comments from people are continually full of vitriol and other demeaning comments to others.
A recent 60 minutes program featured Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who disclosed damning evidence that FB is fully aware, because of their own research, of the damage being done to society, especially to our young people.
I recently had a conversation with a college student and we spoke about social media and the negative impacts it is having. I observed to her that at her age (21), social media has essentially been in existence her entire life and that is all her generation had known. We discussed her grandparents who in their 80s are still very active, interacting with friends, attending card club, church, etc. as part of their social routine, but for friends her age that are becoming increasingly rare types of activities. These types of changes and numerous others that I could list collectively contribute to the loss of social capital in our communities.
In the small rural communities that I am a part of. the loss of social capital is especially true. The service clubs such as the Lions and Kiwanis, the bowling alley that hosted the weekly bowling leagues, declining church attendance, volunteer fire departments that are struggling to fill their ranks, the closure of the local newspapers, and numerous other examples I could give, all have contributed to a decline in social capital.
I clearly understand that things change over time, people's priorities change, new technologies come into being that change our lifestyles, but I am absolutely convinced that social media has accelerated these changes faster than we could have ever anticipated. Is FB solely to blame for the loss of social capital? Of course not, but FB has grown to such a size that it has become a monopoly for people’s time and attention that has been monetized through the vast advertising network FB has created.
Anxiety and mental health issues are on the rise. Conversations I have had with educators clearly point to social media as one of the primary causes in their opinion, for the increased stress that young people are under. Again these types of concerns are at the center of the FB whistleblower accusations.
I am hopeful though that people are beginning to realize what we have been doing to ourselves. Numerous people I speak with are oftentimes close to shutting FB off and deleting their accounts. FB and Instagram both were offline for part of a day recently and news accounts spoke about how people were talking face to face again, albeit for a short time. I haven’t walked away from FB yet, as it is how I communicate with so many friends across the country, and especially my Masonic brethren.
So where are we headed as a society? I am not looking to go back in time and hope for the return of the “good ole days”. What I am hoping for is a great awakening again to the importance of community and the rebuilding of the social capital that strengthens humanity.
Given this is a Masonic blog, I of course see where the local Masonic lodge can play a key part in the rebuilding of social capital. It can’t be done overnight and may be done differently than in past generations. What we have is a set of values that build the character of the individual Mason. The Mason then goes back into the community and helps build it to be a better place for everyone.
Society needs us. Society needs Freemasonry.