Connections

Ask Me Anything

FOR A GENERATION OF MASONS, THE PLACE TO TURN FOR INFO ISN’T IRL.

By Ian A. Stewart

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When Kyle Ong moved across the country to Philadelphia for work, he found himself in a strange town and without roots. Lonely and desperate for connection, he set out to find people who shared his interests. That search led him, as it does for so many, to Freemasonry. But it wasn’t at lodge dinners or prospect nights that he met his future brothers. It was on Reddit.

Today, Ong, who has since moved to California and affiliated with Golden Rule Lodge No. 479, is one of the most active contributors to Masonic chatter on the social media platforms Reddit and Discord. Both services facilitate discussions on dedicated topics, or threads. The r/Freemasonry thread on Reddit, for instance, for which Ong is an official site moderator, has more than 30,000 subscribers. Ong is also the gatekeeper of a smaller Masonic chat group on Discord, a newer and fast-growing service that allows users to communicate by voice, text, or video. In both cases, users can ask for advice, share pictures from installations, and gab about anything else. “It’s about feeling like you’re part of this group of banter and brotherhood,” Ong says.

These online forums aren’t formally connected to a grand lodge. Discussions are open to anyone, not just Masons, and they’re supervised by a small team of moderators, like Ong, who ensure that conversations stay on topic. By far the most common questions have to do with petitioning lodges for membership. Other contributors use the thread as an introduction to the wider world of Masonry beyond their own lodge doors, or to connect with Masons with specific interests, often video games.

For the 30-year-old Ong, who works in security for a large social media company, the idea of turning to the web in search of Masonic intel was practically second nature. For an older generation, the freewheeling world of online forums can be more daunting. “It’s still the Wild West compared to something as serious and sacred as Masonry,” Ong admits, pointing to the small percentage of cranks and trolls who occasionally break through. However, the tone of discourse on both platforms is surprisingly civil, at least by internet standards.

While some remain skeptical about loose talk concerning the craft, the fact is that Masons are encouraged to pass along their experiences, provided they keep the esoteric work private. And online channels like these are an important way to foster conversation about Freemasonry and to reach people who, like Ong, aren’t likely to walk into a lodge hall or pick up a brochure at a tabling booth.

More importantly for Ong and the thousands who turn to Reddit and Discord, these digital tools offer a way to put a real—if virtual—face to the fraternity. Ong himself was a digital-first applicant. A fellow Reddit user he met online invited him to his first lodge meeting in Philadelphia. “The fact that we’re on Reddit or Discord makes Freemasonry seem less old-fashioned, like something your great-grandfather might have been into,” he says. “It helps demystify it, and allows people to figure out what we’re all about.”

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