At the Regular Communication of the Grand Lodge of Scotland held on Thursday, 14th June, 2012, the Grand Master Mason in his Report to Grand Lodge referred to the misuse of E-Communications:
Recently, the attention of Grand Lodge has been drawn to a number of instances where misuse has been made of various forms of E-Communication, such as E-mails, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Inappropriate and offensive material has been sent via these systems. In such cases, Brethren who are responsible for the circulation of the aforementioned material, may be subject to disciplinary procedures as set out in the Constitution and Laws of Grand Lodge. There may also be legal implications involved in sending out inappropriate or offensive material.
Only recently last year has the Grand Lodge of Scotland stepped onto the social media stage, creating both a Facebook page and Twitter account in an effort to attract more members. This is an excellent way to pass on education and information about upcoming events. However, referring to the quote above, we as Freemasons always need to exercise the utmost prudence in what we post and share while we represent the craft online.
One example of this would be posting photos from a masonic meeting or event. If someone doesn’t want to be tagged or have their picture posted online you should respect their wishes. A few years ago when Lodge Han Yang launched its Facebook page, several brethren from the lodge stayed away from it because they wanted to keep their membership secret. Being in a country like Korea where Freemasonry is often misunderstood by the public, their wishes were quite understandable. However, even if Freemasonry were fully accepted in this country they’d still be entitled to their privacy. Even several older, traditional brothers (especially in the UK) would prefer that the whole organization be kept private, and refuse to engage in any social media related to the craft.
Candid shots are another thing to take into consideration. If you’re constantly posting photos of lodge brethren drinking alcohol instead of doing charitable works, perhaps the public would assume the lodge is simply nothing but a drinking club. Essentially the idea here is to remember that we are associating whatever we post online with the fraternity, so there can be great potential to either help it or to hurt it.
And then there is what we post as individuals, within the world of masonic social media – whether that be in a forum, group, page or tweet. If you have a masonic symbol as your profile picture, or it’s of you in regalia, and you begin posting your political and religious opinions, a non-mason might think that opinion is representative of the fraternity in some way.
I’m not saying you can’t talk about politics and religion on social media, of course you can. It’s not a tyled lodge. Such a thing simply doesn’t exist online. This is also why you should never engage in an online conversation that will violate your obligation (even if it is labeled as “tyled”). There’s no way to know whether whoever it is you’re talking to (or whoever is reading) is a recognized brother or not, so it’s best just to stay away from those conversations altogether.
Another thing to consider is language and conduct. There are many times when we engage in debate online, and with brothers as well. The key thing to remember here is to maintain harmony and refrain from making personal attacks. On the masonic Facebook page that I manage there was one recent incident where a brother was upholding the constitution of his Grand Lodge and everyone else was ganging up and bullying him. This situation could have been avoided if everyone just used a little more professionalism and rhetoric.
I think a good rule of thumb is that we must all subdue the three ruffians that are buried within our hearts – the priest, the politician, and the mob. Yes we have opinions and we are entitled to them, and I will fight to the death to defend a brother’s right to express those opinions. But somewhere a line needs to be drawn between harmony and discord, because after all – we are not warriors, but laborers:
The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.
– Joseph Joubert
Committee on Masonic Research and Education of the Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Minnesota. (1986). Standard of Masonic Conduct. Short Talk Bulletin.
Creason, Todd E. (2014). Freemasonry and the Pitfalls of Social Media. Illinois, USA.
Gross, Jeremy (2012). The Necessity of Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic. Massachusetts, USA.
Johnson, Robert (2015). Social Media is Killing Freemasonry. Illinois, USA.
P.G. Secretary (2012). E-Communications. Regular Communication of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
Ratcliff, John W. (2008). What’s this $#!+ about Masonic Harmony? Lake St. Louis, Missouri.
Stewart, Kirsty (2015). Scottish Freemasons Join Facebook and Twitter. Deadline News, Scotland.
Unknown (1927). The Ruffians. Short Talk Bulletin, Masonic Service Association.