I joined Twitter in December 2008. My original purpose was to connect with other ferret aficionados. I found many; most of them are still followers and some have become friends. Yet things changed very quickly once I explored Twitter beyond its ferret niche. I discovered NASA on Twitter, which masterfully used this new medium to educate, entertain, do outreach and engage the public in human and robotic space endeavors.
Aside from the awesome content published by NASA's social media team, one of the biggest perks of being on Twitter and a NASA follower are NASA Tweetups (now known as NASA Socials), which started in 2009. NASA periodically invites its followers world-wide to apply to attend and report on an event at a NASA facility, including launches. Even without a launch event, NASA Socials offer fascinating, unforgettable behind-the-scenes experiences. Attendees are limited from 20 to 150 or so, meaning not everybody who follows NASA gets to go. It's free and easy to apply, though, and I do so whenever I can arrange to travel to an event. To find out about upcoming NASA Social events, follow on Twitter.
I'm fortunate to have been selected to attend three Tweetups / Socials so far. As a result, I've seen Mars Rover Curiosity in a clean room at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena being prepared for shipment to its Florida launch location. I signed my name in a book whose digitized version is now on Mars with Curiosity. I witnessed the last Shuttle launch STS-135 at Cape Canaveral in all its jaw-dropping glory. I got a close look at SOFIA, a German-American project, that uses a 747 as a sophisticated, powerful, flying telescope. I was invited to the NASA Social at AGU 2013 in San Francisco as part of a small group of 20, so we were able to talk with NASA astronauts and scientists one-on-one or in small groups.
All of this has greatly enriched my life, primarily because of the diverse, wonderful space geek friends I made in the process, online and off. People that share my passion for space and for creating our human future in space *now*. I made a major career change so I can work more effectively towards my goal of getting more people into space. I did not expect any of these things in my wildest dreams when I first signed up for Twitter. Now, my Twitter Realm and its inhabitants are a daily part of my life and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Which is precisely why I do not react charitably when someone comes along and pontificates about how using Twitter and social media in general are a waste of time, equals talking to yourself, or that social media generally are the conduit of most - if not all - evil into this world. These "thinkpieces" are invariably based only on the author's own social media experiences and then projected onto everybody else.
Yesterday, I read one such article by a German author (I won't link to it). My response was swift and gleefully snarky: