Social Media and Science

October 29, 2014

Social media is a tricky thing. On one hand, it leads to being inundated with baby pictures from people you haven’t seen since high school, creepily well-suited ads and irritating memes/on-going jokes. But on the other hand, it enables research institutions to share their breakthroughs in innovative ways!

NASA is a wonderful example of this. Though space exploration has always held an appeal for the imagination, the way NASA has utilized the Internet to spread the word about its endeavors is nothing short of genius. This is most clearly seen in the Facebook page for the Mars Curiosity Rover. The page description reads, “Who’s got six wheels, a laser and is now on the Red Planet? Me. I’m Curiosity, aka the Mars Science Laboratory rover.” One recent post showed a picture of a future drill site on Mars with the caption “Drill down for what?” (a play on the popular song, “Turn Down for What”). The overall tone is a little goofy—NASA seems to have taken a cue from the popularity of WALL-E when developing Curiosity’s “personality”.

The tone of Curiosity’s Facebook page may seem a little unprofessional. After all this is billions of dollars of equipment we are talking about, not some high school science experiment. However the page’s 971,947 followers seem to think that it is just fine. A recent article in The Chronicle of High Education described how academic writing can be deliberately obtuse and off-putting to the non-academic (“Why Academics Stink at Writing”); Curiosity’s Facebook page is the polar opposite. It invites in the non-academic crowd and teaches them about the amazing things the academics are doing. This is social media at its strongest.

The library’s Facebook page may not be as cool as Curiosity’s, but it does share the coolest science stories of the day! Follow us here. And feel free to share your worst science jokes with us every #BadJokeThursday!

Other cool Facebook pages: