One of the things I wanted to do during the 2nd HI-SEAS analog mission was increase the social media presence as a way of making more of the public aware of what we were doing and why we were doing it.
I’m a relatively late adopter of social media. I didn’t learn of Facebook until 2008, I didn’t join Twitter until the summer of 2012, and I’ve only had an Instagram account since this last March. But since taking part in the social media world, I’ve become much more aware of the power it has. Electronic communications is not a fad- this are just the beginning of a techno-cultural movement.
The ability to reach people everywhere in the world, almost instantaneously, is a powerful thing. Advertising, propaganda, you name it- the digital message cannot be ignored. It is now an element of our daily lives, a medium of communication, a realm unto itself. What will you YOU use it for?
I’ve become an advocate of using social media as a way to talk about science and space exploration. I didn’t do this on my own, and I certainly wasn’t the first to make it happen. Witnessing for myself the impact of social media made me a believer. I was fortunate enough to be selected by NASA to attend an event at the Glenn Research Center as part of the NASA Social outreach program. In an effort to utilize the existing space enthusiast fan base, NASA adopted a program where attendees who are prolific social media users are invited to witness live or hands-on events. Participants are encouraged to use social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to post facts a photos of what they saw. Not only did it give the public an opportunity to see the space centers, but it also was a demonstration of how these websites and applications can be used to tell the story of the space program.
Anyone who follows space topics knows about Chris Hadfield. Before his tour as commander of the International Space Station, few people knew who this Canadian astronaut was. Throughout his mission, he actively used social media to share photos of life aboard the station,and of Earth as seen from orbit. His tweets reached thousands of followers. This success means something- it means that people pay attention when you tell a story well. His example is something I’ve striven for during my own mission as commander of HI-SEAS.
I was recently contacted by the people behind Instagram. In an e-mail, they described their interest in learning more about my role in HI-SEAS and about my use of their application. I agreed to the interview, and today my photos were featured on the Instagram blog. Here is the link: http://blog.instagram.com/post/92347551152/smars
What happened next was nothing short of astounding to me. My Instagram account, somewhat neglected, boasted no more than 47 followers last night. Most of those 47 were close friends and family. This morning, people began to see my photos. LOTS of people. People in the U.S. People in Canada. People all over the world. At my last count, I had 8,200 new followers. Eight thousand and two hundred people chose to receive my photographs in their daily electronic feed. Not only did my Instagram presence increase, but my personal blog was found by some 60 more people today, and I gained another 340+ followers on my Twitter account. And those numbers are still growing as I type this.
It’s not about the numbers for the sake of numbers. It’s about getting a message to those who might not otherwise see it. It’s about the people who took that second, a moment in their lives, to see what space exploration is all about. Learning to use social media as a tool has allowed me to share with thousands what the crew of HI-SEAS set out to accomplish. I’ve encountered so many people who either didn’t realize there was still a vibrant space exploration program or had negative opinions about it. My goal is to change that. We’re here to make possible future missions to Mars and beyond. And hope I can share that story with you.
I’m not above a shameless plug. Take a look for yourselves. Find me at @casey_stedman on Twitter and Instagram.