As i sit here this evening reading my new issue of NewPhilosopher magazine, which is completely dedicated to technology, I started thinking, is this a good thing or a bad thing.
Everywhere you look anymore it seems that everyone is plugged in to some electronic device. Googling, Facebooking, Tweeting, or numerous other activities that require no interaction at all with the outside world, yet the knowledge of the world is right at our fingertips.
I started thinking, is this part of the reason that we have had a fall in membership? Is this the reason that it is so hard to attract new men into the Craft. We have been on a downward spiral since the late 60s. Since that time society has changes so dramatically about every 10 years due to new technological breakthroughs that our culture can't seem to keep up. Each new generation can't relate to the next due to life being so different during their times of growing up. Im 36 and i look back 20 years ago when i was in high school and its a completely different world. No one had cell phones. Computers and the internet were so slow that that unless you were really skilled in them they were pretty much useless unless you wanted to play a game. To do any research you still had to go to a library. You interacted with friends and family more because you had to. If something great happened, you couldn't just txt you friends right away, you had to wait till the next morning at school to tell the awesome story to your friends.
Though out the history of our craft we have been at the forefront of innovation in society and culture. Anything new that had the chance to make the world a better place it seemed like we were there doing our best to help it along. Then for some reason, about 50 years ago it seems that we stopped. We wanted to stay it the culture that we were. The big joke around my lodge is that we are finally moving out of the 70's into the late 90s as far as the fraternity goes. So within the last 5 to 10 years there has been a huge push to move the fraternity into the modern age of websites Facebook pages and so on. A big part of me thinks this is great. The amount of information moving back and forth between brothers, and lodges is like nothing the Fraternity has ever seen. If you want to know something about the craft all you have to do is get on your phone. You can converse with Brethren from all over the world on a variety of topics, the amount of education that a brother can emerse himself in is endless. We are also able to converse with the profane and answer questions that they may have about the fraternity and what it is all about.
This also has a negative effect though. As i am sure we have all seen, the way a brother would act in person with another brother is completely different than they will behind the safety of a computer or phone. Arguments breakout all the time between Brethren on discussion board over various pointless topics that it disrupts the harmony and causes more division among brothers. Administrators to these sites are constantly trying to keep brethren in line. Even Grand Lodges are having to get involved and write rules as to how masons should act on social media. What use to just be Jurisdictional issues now become world wide issues. Men who in the past would have come knocking on our doors can now look us up online and see a whole barrage of negative publicity on us, and i am sure that this has drove many away, and some it has brought to our doors to see if the things everyone says are real. A lot of the Mystery and Wonder have left because all one has to do is Google.
Another issue i see is that we have become addicted in a sense to our devices. I travel around to other lodges for inspection and whatnot, and even in my own meetings, you look around the lodge and you see Brethren on their phones. From the newest EA to the RWM and GM, and i am sure that they are not all taking notes on the evening. I am just as guilty of this. I love to promote the Craft and find myself using part of meeting time to tweet or Facebook.
I think technology is a great thing for the craft and can have many valuable uses in spreading the light of Masonry to the masses. I also think we need to use a little temperance when it comes to them. We need to realize that we are all walking billboards for the craft and the things we do on social media that may be unbecoming of a Mason has a large impact on the Fraternity as a whole weather we like it or not. Act as though you would in Lodge. If someone else is getting irate don't add fuel to the fire. Handle it the way we should. I also think that we need to start checking our devices more at the door. There is always some lesson to be learned in the degree or stated meeting, or a brother to converse with at dinner or in the Tyler's room thats not happening when we are on our devices. You want to take notes thats great go for it, but the one thing that everyone in this fraternity loves is fellowship, and while this can be done on our device when not in Lodge, when we are in lodge it needs to be the face to face. Thats how we grow as men and masons, and we may not see it now but i feel that, the personal interaction is what will bring the Young Men knocking on our doors once again.