American Freemasonry Expresses Itself through Social Networks

The modern phenomena of the Internet as a new form of virtual sociability and instantaneous communication in real time first began to take off in the American Masonic world in the 1990s, a good while before it gained a strong foothold in Europe. Since that time, the social networks available via the Internet have played a major role in Masonry, for both external exchanges and internal information flow, which has introduced a previously unknown dimension of public openness on display.

This observation is called for despite the fact that American Freemasonry had already been advertising itself on the roads entering towns and cities for a long time. Lodge plaques neighbored those of the Rotary, other clubs, and religious denominations without prompting a challenge from anyone. Masonic lodges formed a part of the urban landscape. Their facades are equally prominent, sporting the symbols of our Order—the square and compass—as well as the name of the lodge, often in letters of gold. Nonetheless, these lodges still remain “undercover,” and it is necessary to show your credential before crossing the threshold by giving the Tyler the required words and signs in accordance with common usage but also specifying the references of the partnering regular lodge. Without these, the door will remain stubbornly closed to the visitor, even one who is an initiate. If it is a female visitor, the matter has been settled in advance; women initiates are not recognized.

On the other hand, Masonic blogs, even though they are subject to regulation by moderators, have formed new spaces that transcend these prohibitions. In addition to the fluidity they have introduced, these modes of communication have had a substantial although fragile part to play in a laudable effort to find better, reciprocal understanding. Nevertheless, the correspondence in English is still far from established on a fully satisfying pedestal, and we are undeniably witnessing the emergence of a poorly mastered bulletin board. It is a little like an upside-down triangle that raises a good many questions as the individual posts are solely the responsibility of their authors, and the obediences understandably remain quite cautious about a record over which they have no control.

The fact remains, nonetheless, that this is a radical revolution leading to self-expression and sometimes muddled conventicles that have many advantages to offer. Each grand lodge has rapidly taken possession of these new tools by developing their own websites, and the two Scottish jurisdictions, both North and South, have followed suit. Institutional moderators have been striving with uneven success to regulate these modes of communication by applying ethical rules to them in conformance with the Masonic approach. But this phenomenon, which is still in its infancy, has revealed its limits in an approach that is incompatible with exhibitionism and immediacy.

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