As you probably have seen by now, I'm in the process of trying to create a new newsletter and community of sorts. A well curated, high quality online gathering place for Masons and Masonic education.
I've named this project Emeth, and it will be having its Grand Opening on this upcoming Sunday, March 7, 2021.
I'm doing this for a number of reasons, not the least of which is from seeing what Social Media is doing to our interpersonal relationships, and at this point, even our society. The impact is not good.
Social media companies make money by keeping all of us scrolling through news-feeds. They have learned that the best way to do that is to shock or anger us, and by confirming our biases. So, they've created extremely complex software that learns exactly what kind of content causes a strong emotional reaction within each of us as individuals, and they endlessly deliver that content.
This is why our news-feeds are now largely click-bait, fake news, headlines screaming when the stories behind them just don't justify the hype, and weird theories over facts.
To make matters even worse, in order to increase revenue, in the early days of social media things like Lodge pages, or the page of the restaurant down the street from one's home could be found organically as one used the platform. Not anymore. Now if these small, local pages want visibility, they have to advertise, they must pay in order to be seen.
Moderation has also become a terrible controversy, and a serious problem. Individual Masons and Masonic bodies are continually having their intellectual property and names stolen by criminals seeking to make a quick buck. Social Media platforms no longer seem to care, reporting these criminals often leads to no action at all being taken. Perhaps this is because the massive controversy surrounding moderation has taken up all available attention at the platforms, or perhaps it is because the activities of criminals results in yet more eyeballs for the platform's advertisers.
All of this is resulting in a Social Media experience that is making us as a people angry and mean as we endlessly scroll through our news-feeds each day. Civility online is largely dead. In many cases even dead within Masons, men who are largely committed to leading civil and charitable lives.
We, as a people, are growing increasingly hostile online, and now that is spilling out into the real world of live human interaction. Our society can not survive if current trends towards collective anger and even hatred continue.
We, as Freemasons, more than any other group of people in this world, have a duty to do what we can to stop it. To try and bring civility back to everyday interactions, both online and off. We, who's philosophy is largely responsible for the creation of this great nation have a duty to try and fix what is ailing it.
I'm not the first person to point out what Social Media platforms are doing to our society. Countless others have done so for a long time now. Those doctors who study the human brain have even pointed out how our minds become wired differently as we engage with our news-feeds, and how our bodies drug our minds when we see the likes pouring in.
Personally, I use Facebook. A lot. I use it probably 99% of the time for Masonic related things, and I have for many years now. I do it because it is where the Masons are. I do it because it affords me the opportunity to interact with thousands of Brothers, good men in my own hometown, across the country, and around the world.
But, it isn't the same as it was.
If I think about it and try to remember it how it was in the earlier days, my incoming news-feed was much more Masonic. I saw all the posts from my Brothers, we interacted about Masonry. Now most of what comes to me is politics and cultural rants. It's not the same.
Of course there is a very good reason for this. When a guy posts about a Degree his Lodge did that came off exceptionally well, or a Lodge posts about a fundraiser for its scholarship fund, those posts naturally get few clicks, for Masonry only interests a tiny percentage of people today. That's not good for the business of Social Media. On the other hand, a post about forcing the Speaker of the House out of office will get a lot more engagement, hence make a lot more money for the owners of the platform. There's a reason these folks are worth many billions of dollars.
Just for fun, I just took a look at my news-feed while I was writing this. Post #1 Speaker Pelosi, Post #2 Election Security, Post #3 Belize, Post #4 Nachos, Post #5 Texas Energy Policy, Post #6 Gun Rights, Post #7 Grammar Police, Post #8 The Devil, and Post #9 (Finally!) Freemasonry.
This on my Facebook that has at least 90% Freemasons on the Friends List, and 99% Masonic posts. I have, on occasion posted about guns, but never any of those other things. They are there to try and cause a reaction within me, to cause me to keep on scrollin. Also, interestingly, none of the posts was from a Masonic Lodge or other Masonic body's page, despite the fact that I like every one I can find.
Social Media is directly causing massive negative impacts in our society. It's influence is evil.
I think that we probably all recognize that to be true, but we give it our attention anyway.
So, one of the big reasons I'm creating Emeth is to help break the stranglehold that Social Media now has over online Masonic discourse.
I want an online home where we as Masons can engage with each other about Masonry. Without all of the insanity that today's online attention economy demands.
Emeth will offer its readers regularly published articles about Freemasonry in all its aspects. It is my hope that readers find these articles to be high quality, educational, and thought provoking. It is my dream that through them we all become better men and Masons.
Emeth will also offer its readers carefully curated, meaningful discussions, on topics of interest to Freemasons, and of benefit to our Lodges. I seek to facilitate the sharing of ideas, in a quality way, for the wide benefit of our Ancient Craft.
I am also creating Emeth because I greatly enjoy writing about Freemasonry, and I know through objective data that many Masons enjoy reading my words.
Alas though, while I love writing about Freemasonry, I know myself well enough to know that I don't do particularly well without deadlines and pressure. Emeth will provide me with those deadlines, with a schedule that will cause (force?) me to write as I want to write. Do as I want to do.
I can't write about Emeth without mentioning cost. I'll say it up front, Emeth is not going to be free. Full participation will come with a price tag attached. This might be surprising to some because we have all grown accustomed to everything online being free.
I think we are all smarter than that though, nothing online is actually free. Google gives us 'free' services in exchange for our data, as does Facebook and all the other big tech companies out there. They make their billions by selling our data to advertisers who can then target us as consumers with uncanny precision.
There's nothing wrong with that in my view, but it isn't in keeping with my vision of what Emeth will be or will become.
Emeth will be supported by payments from those who enjoy it enough to want to pay for it. Much will be free, but some will of necessity be locked behind a paywall.
I've also, in fairness, got to say that Emeth won't be particularly cheap. It'll be cheaper than the dues for most Lodges, but not by too much. Quality takes an extraordinary commitment of time, and quality takes resources. Emeth will have to be priced with an understanding of those facts.
This is largely a failing in Masonry, in that we, as Masons, sell it way too cheaply. In far too many cases we don't pay enough in Lodge dues to provide quality meals or refreshment. We don't pay enough dues to provide high quality Lodge programs. We certainly, in most cases, don't pay anywhere near enough to properly maintain our buildings. Emeth can't and won't repeat that mistake.
Looking beyond Emeth, at some point Masonry will need to figure out, one Lodge at a time, just how much money it needs to provide quality, and solve the financial distresses of the Lodges once and for all. That however is a discussion for another day.
Before I close, I want to make it clear that I'm not leaving Facebook entirely for Emeth. I'll still be there, looking for Masonic gems, and posting little bits of my Masonic experience.
I'm also not leaving this write.as blog. Write.as is an extremely elegant tool, with a mission that I can believe in. Plus, lots of folks read what I post here. I'll still be here, posting irregularly as I do now. Likely those posts will be focused, at least a bit on our Grand Jurisdiction.
There you have it, an explanation of my newest project, Emeth. I hope to see you there!
As a reminder, Emeth will officially launch on this upcoming Sunday, March 7, 2021.
If you go there now and sign up for a free account, you will receive the very first post when it goes live at 3:00AM, Sunday.
For an explanation of the name Emeth, Click Here
Cameron M. Bailey
Past Grand Master
The MW Grand Lodge F&AM of Washington
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