Space Hipsters, the internet, and faith in humanity
I can’t recall when I learned about the Facebook group called Space Hipsters. But as the son of an aviator and astronaut and a former Air Force space guy myself, I was looking for ways to use Facebook as an enjoyable and educational tool. Like many, I’d grown tired of watching my own friends argue with each other about all things political in my main Facebook feed – even as I sometimes joined in. Those interactions left me thinking that Facebook has been a net negative when it comes to reasoned discourse, at least with respect to political matters. I found myself paradoxically bored by the discussions even as they raised my blood pressure. Talk about no upside.
Around the time I was thinking about whether all this technology the wunderkinds of Silicon Valley had created was really worth it, I finished my memoir about growing up in a space family. Writing the book re-energized my interest in things from my youth – aviation and space were at the top of that list – and so I went looking for an online community to engage with. The impending isolation of the pandemic also spurred me on. And while it’s true that joining the group might help me find an audience for my book, that really was secondary. Truth be told, I wanted an additional set of friends that wanted to talk about something aspirational and exciting.
Credit: Honeywell (https://aerospace6.honeywell.com/en/space-nerds)
That was when I found Space Hipsters. Founded by Emily Carney and Lois Huneycutt, the group’s name hints at its culture: an eclectic mix of folks from all walks of life and from around the world who share a fascination with and appreciation for all things space related. The collective membership of this virtual club reminded me much of the crowd I remember seeing as a kid when I went to watch the first space shuttle landing on a dry lakebed in southern California – it is varied in every way possible but tied together by a unique thread that transcends all else. I know that sounds corny. It is. But it’s also true.
Before joining the group, I had considered myself a relatively knowledgeable guy when it came to space exploration. I knew I might not be the valedictorian of the Space Hipsters class, but I expected that I’d at least be in Summa Cum Laude territory. Boy was I wrong. I am but a neophyte when it comes to my knowledge of the history of and plans for space travel. I may know what happened to Apollo 13 at a macro level, but my Space Hipster friends can tell you the sequence of switch manipulations that led to the explosion – and not from watching the movie. Sometimes, it seems some Hipsters know more about my own father than I do.
I’ve enjoyed very much getting to be a part of the community. I look forward to the day when I can meet some of them face-to-face. Finding the group in the wasteland that Facebook can be was like finding a city of gold after wandering a rainforest for seven years – if the city you found was full of space nerds.
Space Hipsters has given me a bit more faith in technology too – ironic given our area of interest relies completely on faith in technology. If Space Hipsters can bring so many people of such diverse backgrounds together in a constructive way even when the world around us seems a bit unhinged, then surely others must be finding similar affinity groups that do the same for them? Do members of the group “Cacti and Animals …” (where the rules quite firmly ask that members “please post only pictures of your animals … in combination with your cacti or succulents”) find the same comradery we do?
Or how about the group “A group where we all pretend to be ants in an ant colony?” The description of this group notes: In this group we are ants. We worship The Queen and do ant stuff. Welcome to the colony. The admin rules state that the group will not tolerate “posts that look like drugs instead of sugar.” Not sure what that means, but what do I care? You be you, ant people. The rules also note that “no peeing or other gross toilet posts will be approved.” I didn’t realize that ants led such interesting lives. Like many groups (including Space Hipsters) they also have a strict policy against political posts. But I’m not sure how that squares with another rule that say that “The Queen” must always be capitalized. It seems to me a monarchy which requires this is, by definition, political.
But who am I to judge? I’m just hoping those that those that belong to these other very “interesting” groups find what I found in Space Hipsters – a like-minded community that makes them feel good about humanity again.
Postscript: I just noticed that the group “A group where we all pretend to be ants in an ant colony” has 1.3 million members … nearly 70 times more than Space Hipsters. I have to admit, that took just a little air out of my “faith in humanity” balloon.