Image via WIkipediaHow has Twitter affected my enthusiasm for space?

As a science fiction writer, I’ve been appalled at the number of genre works in which the science disappeared after the first chapter, or the world-building defied my ability to suspend disbelief. While I’m not an astronomer, it stands to reason that there are some things that just wouldn’t be the same on, say, a high or low gravity world.

Born the same month and year that Sputnik launched, and anal-retentive about such things, I wanted to make sure that my aliens were more than just humans with wrinkled noses or pointed ears (sorry, Trek fans). The xeno-worlds I created needed to be internally consistent, which meant that I, as the wordsmith, needed to know what I was talking about when I envisioned them.

Now, you may ask what this has to do with the question, and when I might get to the point. Here’s the thing. There are plenty of web sites that offer information on astronomy, space exploration, and a dozen other related topics. Twitter, however, with its micro-blogging format and limit of 140 characters in which to communicate a message, provides a unique opportunity.

Certainly it’s a clean canvas for those interested in telling the world, or at least the Twittersphere, what they had for breakfast, or other such mundane details of life. As well, businesses can take advantage of the chance to reach a large audience. To mention these, though, without also discussing the educational aspects of Twitter, is to miss some of the possibilities.

When I started out on Twitter, I knew only that I wanted to network with like-minded others who shared my interest in science fiction and all that went with it. Not surprisingly, that included space, the final frontier. Like many a newbie, I began by following a number of people, making sure to include astronauts and space industry professionals in the diverse mix. While some of them followed me back almost immediately, a larger number didn’t. As my inclination was, and remains, to have good quality followers, rather than a large quantity of them, it didn’t matter to me. I devoured the shortened URLs they posted that exposed me to new aspects of space exploration, and learned all I could from them. Along the way, an interesting thing happened. Beyond the learning, my own tweets took on a different tone.

Instead of simply answering Twitter’s question, “What are you doing?” in my mind I added three words to make it, “What are you doing to add value?”

My tweets matured from my first, “Feeding my space obsession,” which was as interesting as any tweet I’ve read about a ho-hum meal, and got as much response, to such postings as Vietnam to launch second man-made satellite in 2012. I watched in fascination when people started retweeting my posts. And they weren’t just any people. Some of them were astronauts and space industry professionals whom I’d been following all along and who were suddenly following me back or recommending me to others in the Twittersphere through #FollowFriday shout outs, Twibes, or Mr. Tweet.

Besides being humbled by the attention, it inspired me to make it worth their while to read my feed. I started searching for those little space tidbits that weren’t on the main page of every web site on the Internet and posting them only when few others had. Every one of them, I read, which added to my knowledge on the subject, and made me eager to learn still more. When one of my followers took the time to provide correct information about something I’d posted which was inaccurate, unbeknownst to me, I thanked him and shared the correct information. More opportunities to engage in occasional conversations about the final frontier came my way. My science fiction was also impacted as I learned the names of various stellar formations or extrapolated how some new technology in today’s space age might evolve over a few centuries. The more I tweeted, the more I learned; the more I learned, the more I wrote; and, the more I wrote, the more I discovered a need for new space-related information, much of which I tweeted.

How has Twitter affected my enthusiasm for space?

140 characters at a time.