Sunday, January 10, 2010

Facebook is a Useful Tool for Lodges, Too

This blog post is a reprinting of an article that I wrote and was published in the January 2010 issue of the Connecticut Freemasons Newspaper.

The November issue of Connecticut Freemasons included an article that introduced Facebook, the social networking site that has taken the internet by storm. A December Connecticut Freemasons article showed how a timely interchange could involve several people, sharing opinions and thoughts. A Masonic lodge can also use Facebook to bring its members together, by sharing announcements, discussions, and information.

People use social networking sites to connect with others and to talk about the things that they are interested in. Facebook users come together to discuss books, holidays, movies, school events, and countless other topics. Our brothers are excited about Masonry and about their lodges, so they are naturally drawn to Facebook to learn more about others’ experiences in Masonry and to share their own. Since its beginning, brethren have met together on the internet to exchange ideas and discuss how Masonry is practiced in their various jurisdictions and lodges.

So how can your lodge use Facebook to inspire its brothers and help excite them into action? First, you need a central presence on Facebook. For this presence, there are two options: Pages and Groups. Pages and Groups are Facebook features that assist organizations to promote themselves and disseminate their information. There are slight differences between these two options, but generally Pages are preferred for lodges.

A Facebook page is primarily a public relations tool. Any Facebook user can become a “fan” of the page and it is therefore open to brothers, friends, family, and community members. The advantages of a Facebook page are numerous. A lodge can post its upcoming events on the page and invite people to attend. This can allow your lodge to save money on postage and advertising, while reaching a wider audience of brothers and friends. Your lodge can post photos about the great events that it has had. The page’s fans can then get a more intimate look into your lodge and its happenings.

Large amounts of content can also be posted onto the lodge page. Trestleboards can be posted on the page via a web link. Videos of an installation of officers or even a Masonic family picnic can be uploaded. The Worshipful Master could even digitally record his Master’s message and upload it to the page. Links to your lodge’s website can be included, as well as a link to the Grand Lodge’s website and other pages about Freemasonry. Facebook pages can allow its fans to start interactive discussion topics, for brothers to discuss everything from refreshments to the lodge budget. The options for posting content about your lodge are countless.

Finally, one of the primary benefits of your lodge having a Facebook page is that it is completely free. As long as your brothers have an email address and an internet connection, they can use Facebook.

Facebook is not a replacement for real life, nor is it a replacement for Masonry. There is no such thing as virtual Masonry. The lodge and our face-to-face brotherhood are what makes Freemasonry special. However, Facebook can help keep brothers informed and help excite them about your lodge’s events. This, in turn, may inspire them to come out and enjoy the fellowship of the lodge.

Like email, websites, and online documents, Facebook is just another virtual working tool by which we can perfect our art. Hopefully, your lodge can find a way to use this new tool to help bring brothers, friends, and family a little closer together.

What the Heck is a “Facebook”?

This blog post is a reprinting of an article that I wrote and was published in the November 2009 issue of the Connecticut Freemasons Newspaper.

You have probably heard something about Facebook either in the news, from an email, or you might be on Facebook already. However, you might have been left wondering “What is Facebook?” and “Why do I need to know about it?” Since this is a tool that many people are using sometimes on a daily basis, perhaps we can shed some light on the subject and help you figure out “What the heck is a Facebook anyway?”

Let’s start off simple; Facebook is a web site that people use to network socially, that is, leave messages with their friends that all their other friends can see. A user logs into Facebook and has the ability to post, either publicly or privately, information about themselves such as photos, notes, their taste in music, or even events they are attending. A user can then become a “friend” with anyone who is already on Facebook. This might be a family member, a coworker, a friend, or a Masonic brother. “Friending” is the act of declaring a social connection between two people and allowing them to see each other’s personal information. Becoming a friend is a two-way street, both users must agree to the friendship and confirm it. Therefore, if you don’t know someone and they request to become your “friend,” you can simply reject the request. Once someone is your friend on Facebook, they can see all the interesting stuff that you post. For example, here is a link to my Facebook profile, check it out and you can see what a Facebook profile looks like - I left it public for anyone to see, not just my “friends” on Facebook.

Two important features of Facebook is the “status” field and the “news feed.” A user has a “status” field, where they can type a short note about what they are doing at that moment. Updating your Facebook status is similar to another internet phenomenon, twittering, which allows users to post short little messages to the public. For example, a lodge member who is about to attend a Halloween party hosted by the Fellowcraft Club may post “I’m going to the Fellowcraft Club Halloween Party. Hope they play the Monster Mash!” This “status” is then prominently displayed on the users Facebook page for his friends to see. The feature is also broadcast to his friends’ “news feed.” The “news feed” is an activity aggregator, which gives a listing of all the recent updates that have occurred on your friends' pages. Most users check the “news feed” regularly as a way to see what their friends are up to. Therefore, another brother may see the status update about the Halloween Party in his “news feed,” become aware that this party is happening, and decide to come down to the lodge and bob for apples. Another useful feature of Facebook are “fan pages.” A “fan page” is a Facebook page that is not specifically for a person, but for a product, a place, or an organization. Becoming a fan is sort of like becoming a friend, except when you become a fan of an organization, it is a one- way street. A user chooses to become a fan of a page and there is no confirmation needed from the “fan page.” Once a user is a fan, the page can then post status updates and notifications to the users news feed. Photos, events, or even videos can be posted to the page, for fans to explore. The Grand Lodge of Connecticut has a fan page on Facebook and you can check it out by following the link on the Grand Lodge website.

Next month, we’ll have an article about what resources for Masons are available on Facebook and how lodges use Facebook to help the craft stay connected.

Installation of Officers Successful!

As Associate Grand Marshal for my district, I have gotten to do a lot of traveling to other lodges recently. Particularity during this month, I have been to several installations of officers and will be going to several more (two today in fact). An installation of officers is the "New Years Party" of Masonry. You get to see the excitement of brothers as they take their new stations and places. You get to see our many brothers take pride in and be humbled by the new offices their lodges have entrusted them with. New ideas are flying around and with these new ideas come hope for the future.

Although all installations are exciting events, none have been more meaningful for me than yesterday's installation of officers at Adelphi Momauguin Lodge No. 63. On January 9th, 2010, Worshipful Brother James Arthur Tirrell was installed as Worshipful Master of our lodge. James is also my younger brother.

I can still remember my mother bringing home my brother as a baby. I've seen him grow for 26 years and I'm very proud of the man he is today. His dedication, love of life and creativity will make him a great Worshipful Master and I am honored to serve him as one of his officers.

Yesterday was even more meaningful for me, because my good friend Daniel W. Hawthorne stepped down as Worshipful Master after two years of devoted Masonic service. Dan has done a great job as Master of our lodge and will continue to serve as our Chaplain for the ensuing year. Congratulations on a job well done!

Finally, I would like to congratulate all the newly elected and appointed officers of Adelphi Momauguin Lodge No. 63. We had a great day and much fellowship was had. Now let us get to our labors and build our temple!

A special thanks to Brother James Elliott who took some great photos of the installation of officers. All the photos can be found on this Facebook album.