This week, we had the great fortune of welcoming Colonel Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) to our London office. The self-described “Canadian astronaut, back on Earth after living aboard ISS as Commander of Expedition 35” shared his recent adventures in space, and explained why Twitter has changed the way astronauts — and those of us stuck abiding by gravity on Earth — communicate with each other. His words were so inspiring that we wanted to pass along his thoughts on the power of a Tweet:
“We came here to Twitter on purpose, of course. Because you guys have created and improved and invented a means of communication that is both revelatory and revolutionary for our species, and I don’t say that lightly.
When I first used Twitter back when it was pretty new, at first I was against it, I was like ‘who cares. Why would I use it? What would it do for me? A bunch of twelve-year-olds twittering to each other, who cares?’ I didn’t understand it. But then I suddenly recognised that this is as important as the printing press.
This is a way to take individual thoughts that used to be only be made available to people through a very narrow channel and some sort of technical or scientific magnification, and suddenly spread it to a billion people, that voluntarily can share that thought if they want to or not.
And that, I realised just how powerful that is, the ability to share thoughts, for better or for worse. But almost all of the really bad decision makers in history lived in a very small, isolated cone of poorly-connected thought to the rest of the world. They convinced themselves of some truly bad things, whereas the shared communication is really I think where most of our salvation lies.
And so the ability to communicate and experience things living on board a spaceship — so much better than my first two flights, where the technology didn’t exist yet — was enormous.
Suddenly, if I took a picture, millions of people could see it within minutes. Or if I decided to share what it was like to sing onboard and play onboard, we could suddenly have so many people not just sort of remotely guessing what it might be like to be that other person but actually, personally get a sense of it and then see that as part of their own existence and life.
That shared nature of the human existence is what social media gives us like we’ve never seen before — and specifically, the elegant simplicity of Twitter is to me unprecedented and really important. The requirement to be succinct and clear with your thoughts, but the speed and honesty of it as well has been hugely effective in us communicating with each other, so that’s why we stopped here in London amidst all this to thank you guys for your work and to encourage you to continue make it better, despite whatever all the transitions are and how that’s all evolving, none of this stuff is static, but the way that you do it is really powerful and worthwhile and has made an enormous difference in how the world understands exploration of the rest of the solar system as a result of the technology which you’re working on — so thank you.”