On November 26, 2011, NASA’s robotic space rover “Curiosity” left Earth. Eight months, 54.6 million kilometers, and $2.5 billion dollars later, the space craft landed on Mars. It doesn’t matter if you think that deep space exploration is vastly important or a gargantuan waste of money; the successful landing of Curiosity is a very big deal.
What’s interesting to me is how much information about Curiosity is being generated and consumed through social media. Consider Twitter, where Curiosity is currently trending. Before watching the morning news and before listening to NPR on my morning commute, I read about Curiosity’s safe landing on Twitter.
Social media is expanding. We are coming to a place where traditional media and new media are equally prevalent. While this creates a natural tension, the legitimization of social media as a news source is a good thing because it creates engagement between a news event and its audience.
Social Media Gives Culture a Voice
There has been a lot of criticism surrounding NASA and government spending. A popular idea is that space exploration is not important, especially where national interests are concerned. However, if you looked at the conversations taking place on Twitter, you’d never guess it.
The hashtag #fundNASA has gone viral in the wake of Curiosity’s Mars landing, and many users are claiming that they would theoretically be willing to crowdfund NASA on Kickstarter if given the opportunity. In fact, Kickstarter has already fully funded a documentary by filmmaker Jordan Lanham about NASA’s financial problems.
Civilian support for NASA already exists. Social media has done more than a sufficient job of proving that.
What It All Means
Social media is important because, if used correctly, it gives us an honest representation of what people want. From a marketing, political, or personal perspective, knowing what is wanted and expected is highly valuable.
That might sound a little ridiculous, especially if you frequent sites like 4Chan or Reddit. Social media has not traditionally been a polite or trustworthy forum; however, I believe that social media is evolving culturally. Popular platforms like Twitter offer mature discussions on legitimate topics.
Social media’s reaction to NASA’s most recent landing is proof of that. What’s even more exciting? The sentiment towards NASA expressed by the public through social media is one that had not yet been communicated through traditional media. If you ask me, that’s out of this world.
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→ David Pemberton, Editor, Social Media + PR, AREA203 Digital; follow… @Dave_Your_Fave