Solar eclipse sparks an increase in interest on Facebook
WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) – With the solar eclipse less than a week away, buzz on social media is reaching an all-time high. Google searches for the monumental event continuously go up and over 40 different Facebook groups have launched to prepare for the big day.
Thousands of people have joined groups such as the one Eric Adams founded. By day, Adams is an astronomy enthusiast who contributes to Wired Magazine. By night, Adams is the administrator of the event’s biggest social media group page on Facebook with over 10,000 members, “2017 U.S. Solar Eclipse Travel and Discussion Group.”
Adams has seen two eclipses in person, including one in Australia, which he wrote about in the New York Times. He was inspired to launch the page because he wanted to help people get the most out of the event.
“I think a lot of people will dismiss it as an option because they simply don't know what it's all about, and how awesome it is in person,” Adams said. “My core thinking is that total eclipses--because of the kind of unbelievable coincidence of the Moon and sun having the same apparent sizes in the sky--are basically these epic gifts from the cosmos.”
Richard Clem, a solar eclipse blogger and member of various eclipse Facebook groups, agrees with Adams. He saw his first eclipse in 1970 and has been waiting to see a full eclipse all his life. Clem says it is important for everyone to experience this incredible opportunity to see how the universe works.
“When I was a kid, we were still sending people to the moon, and people just had a sense of amazement about it. Now that seems to be mostly gone,” Clem said. “People don’t know about science. And most importantly they have come to believe that they can’t figure things out themselves, and they have to rely on ‘experts’ to answer scientific questions.”
Clem argues that despite the increase in social media attention towards the topic, not as many people are as excited as they should be about this once-in-a-lifetime event.
“(The Facebook page) seems to be a place to commiserate about why not everyone is as excited as we are,” Clem said. “I sometimes work as a substitute teacher, and I was surprised and a little disappointed that the kids hadn't heard about the eclipse until I told them.”
Many of the Facebook groups that have been launched have differentiated themselves by region. The regions with their own group pages are places where the solar eclipse will be seen.
Everett King is a resident of Grant County, Ore. He’s been interested in solar eclipses for all of his life but missed the last one to happen in the United States because it was cloudy in the region he was in.
King started a Facebook page specific to his county, which will experience the eclipse, because he is “just helping out the manager of the Grant County Chamber of Commerce to get the word out to prospective visitors.”
“The county really has no firm idea of how many people to expect. The only concrete information is coming from individuals and businesses that are renting spaces,” King continued when referring to eclipse chasers who will be populating the county. “Many locals are planning to hunker down and wait it out. The visitors will be bringing much-needed cash to the community, but with it will come inconveniences too.”
Clay Sherrod lives in Conway County, Ark. and isn’t expecting a solar eclipse to hit their area until the next one in 2024 but he’s already started a page to get fellow residents ready. Sherrod wants his page to be a hub for city residents to plan for visitors, food supply, law enforcement and lodging, among other things.
“The towns and cities along the 2017 eclipse path wish that they had started planning six years ago,” Sherrod said. “In Arkansas, we will be ready, but the planning will take five years minimum. This eclipse in 2024 will see the largest influx of people and money that Arkansas has ever seen.”
Romeo Durscher used to work for NASA on a mission observing the Sun. He recently started a group dedicated to drone photographers who will be taking pictures of the eclipse as it happens. Durscher and his fellow photographers will be live streaming their pictures and video for ABC’s “Good Morning America” on the day of the eclipse.
“This will be the first total solar eclipse in history that will get this much coverage from not only the ground, but also the air. Thanks to drone technology,” Durscher said.
His Facebook page helps users engage with the big event since “the idea is to get aerial photographers together who are planning on capturing the eclipse from a very different perspective.”
Adams started his group in early 2016 and hit about 500 users by the end of the year. He saw his page pick up interest in June and is excited to see users start their own threads, share their own thoughts and post articles related to the big event.
“I think just curiosity about the fact that they're so perfect yet so random,” Adams wrote in an interview on Facebook Messenger. “Chasing eclipses is an adventure, and sometimes it seems there aren't many real adventures possible anymore. On Aug. 21, everyone will be on this single-minded quest. I love that.”