The impact of social media on storm chasing

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Hello everyone, I found an article I thought was interesting, and wanted to share it with y’all. No doubt social media has had a tremendous impact on storm chasing.

Article

Curious to see everyone’s thoughts on this. No doubt everyone has their own opinions about how social media has affected storm chasing.
 
Given that I am 74 years old, it is probably a surprise to nobody that I tend to agree with the veterans in this article. I am not sure there are really more chasers now - there were a lot a decade or so ago, too - but it is absolutely true that social media encourages dangerous behavior, as people compete to get the most dramatic (i.e. closest) video. Besides putting the people doing this in danger, it also can put other people in danger, too, as chasers race to get the best view and look at their phones more than the road.

A couple other points. First, one of my biggest beefs is that too many chasers have moved entirely to social media, no longer posting on sites like this one. Thus, it is harder and harder for chasers to find content from other chasers, even on days when you were all on the same storm. Back in the day, most chasers' reports, photos, and videos were posted to Storm Track or in a handful of email groups. Now, they are all over the place on all kinds of different social media platforms. I really prefer having one place where chasers go to share their forecasts and their chase reports, but that has largely disappeared. In this way, I think social media has really undermined community among storm chasers. My other point is that the title of the article refers to storm chasing as a "profession." For the vast majority of chasers, it is not.
 
A couple other points. First, one of my biggest beefs is that too many chasers have moved entirely to social media, no longer posting on sites like this one. Thus, it is harder and harder for chasers to find content from other chasers, even on days when you were all on the same storm. Back in the day, most chasers' reports, photos, and videos were posted to Storm Track or in a handful of email groups. Now, they are all over the place on all kinds of different social media platforms. I really prefer having one place where chasers go to share their forecasts and their chase reports, but that has largely disappeared. In this way, I think social media has really undermined community among storm chasers. My other point is that the title of the article refers to storm chasing as a "profession." For the vast majority of chasers, it is not.
I completely agree with your first point. Social media just has a lot of other crap on their apps and sites that I really don't care about. It really is a shame that less people are active on Stormtrack than a decade ago. I do like some of the social media formats, so I do wish there was a specific storm chasing social app where you could post short form content and smaller posts. I do love Stormtrack for longer posts and more thoughtful discussions, but it just isn't formatted for posting like a social media app, and I think that deters some people from joining or being more active. It also just does not have the visibility as social media sites.
 
It's really become about doing something 'different', something 'more', something no one else has. Freddy says it in the article, that he feels he needs to get close to get that better shot that'll get him views.

But to what end? So your video has some more views?

I suppose the big change came from high-speed internet being a normal function for Gen Z. I'm lucky enough to have grown up during the change from the analogue to digital world, from recording storm programmes on VHS to being able to watch live streaming on YouTube. For the older of us who remember that world, I think finding the right area, finding the right storm, observing it, and hopefully seeing a tornado is satisfying.

For the younger generation it's a different thing because you can follow the last model run on your phone, have radar direct you right where you need to go, and you can upload your video within minutes if you really want. People can do anything they want now and it won't ever stop. Everything nice ends up on social media, especially TikTok now, and suddenly millions are interested in it.
 
In a certain sense, I am consoled by finding that there is also a hemorrhage from the specific forums towards Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, etc. We also have the same problem in Italy but the storm chasing activity does not have the same recognition as in the United States, probably because many of you do it as a profession.
The indiscriminate use of cell phones while driving has led our government to tighten the highway code, think that they have proposed in parliament a fine of 1600 euros and the suspension of the license for 2 months... I don't even want to know with which " devices" will be able to issue fines. we already have the streets littered with speed cameras... These for me are the only consequences of social media.
 
I personally think it’s funny a lot of people say it’s a profession, insinuating that it’s profitable. I’m sure there are some people clearing a profit after gas, hotels, food, vehicle repairs and buying equipment, but it sure isn’t me😊. Maybe it would matter if I didn’t take crappy pictures and was active on social media. Heck, I’m still years behind on going through video I’ve taken. It seems like there’s always something else I have to get done.
Those who work on getting followers and get as up close and personal as they can doesn’t bother me at all. My worry is the weekend warriors that normally don’t chase, but head out when there’s weather in their local neighborhood. These are the ones I believe get too focused on the storm and kinda forget about the driving part. People like me make enough mistakes while driving without having something taking my mind off of it.
 
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Something else that I've seen as a side affect of all this kind of runs contrary to the last part of the article. They talk about the increased sense of "community," but oftentimes that only applies to the ones who can get out and chase everything. Most of my close friends among the chase community are in the same boat that I am. Can't just drop everything and chase on a whim. Some of us in that category also have obligations in our normal life that prevent us from taking a "chasecation" for two weeks or more. I (and others) get a vibe from those who don't have those obligations that, because we can't chase everything, or don't have the big followings on social media, that we're somehow not on the same level as them. I've gotten the whole "not dedicated" jab directed at me before, because I value the stability in my life that took years to build. In a "what have you done lately" world, the overall body of work often gets ignored, especially for guys that have been around for a couple decades or more. Some seem to get off put when someone who has been around for that many years, but only gets to chase a handful of times a year, offers advice on things. I also think those of us who focus on still photography rather than video (which feels more like a chore for me), also tend to get relegated to that latter group.

The other disappointing trend of social media has already been alluded to by others. Forums like this one are an incredible repository of information that Facebook/Twitter/Instagram can't match. I'm still active on a couple of car related forums for that reason. If I run into something that I've not seen yet, I can do a search and, chances are, I can find someone who's dealt with that issue. Same with car modifications. There's not much in terms of driveline combinations that haven't been done to second gen Camaros, and when I started looking into my transmission swap that I'm currently working on, there were several who had done write-ups, with pictures and everything to show what it'll look like under the car at each step of the process. Haynes/Chiltons manuals and forums are how I learned how to rebuild motors and transmissions, and it's sad to see so many of them fall away because they can't compete with the "instant everything" that people seem to want.
 
Social media has turned chasing into an entertainment-based entity. The majority of people watching the high profile entertainers on platforms like YouTube are watching for screaming, thrills and death-defying stunts. No longer are pretty pictures and professional behavior going to make the cut.

The most disturbing element is how younger chasers emulate what they are seeing on social media, believing nincompoop behavior is how to conduct a chase.
 
No doubt social media is whats driving storm chasing (and various unsafe behaviors in it) these days. Its all about who can get the most views/likes/etc, which sadly is done by posting the closest or most extreme video. Not even about quality anymore (like a nice steady clear picture).

Anyone with a phone & radar app can declare themself a 'storm chaser' now, even if they know little about storms or safety around them. Its sad honestly. Basically its like some of these guys have no "respect" for truly how powerful and/or how truly dangerous a storm can be.
I personally have yet to go chasing(that will require a setup close enough, and on a day when I am free to go out), but I took some time learning about storms/how they work/some of the odd things they can do/safety/etc ... and simple fact is I respect the potential power within a storm.
I aint going to be getting close...yeah I want to see a tornado, but I don't want to end up *inside* it or even right beside it ... and I also want to see some of the storm's structure, because there truly is beauty in the structure.

Pretty much the only 'social media' I use is YouTube (both for viewing and posting). Not a real fan of facebook (have an account, but I don't post stuff there). I've never used twitter or had interest in it, personally never got why it was so popular (but I'm also a 'computer guy' not a 'phone guy' when it comes to doing stuff online). And Tik Tok is the worst of them all. I won't touch that thing...in big part because its malware(spyware), but also because these days every time I hear a report of people doing stupid or dangerous things(not talking about chasing here, but in genera) for social media attention, its always on Tik Tok.
 
In many ways, the Internet was a better place in 2003 than it is in 2023. Drew's example of scouring old school forums for niche tribal information about Camaro mods really crystallizes why this is the case. It's remarkably depressing to recognize that some storms back during the era of AOL and 30-lb CRT monitors are perhaps more coherently documented than storms from this year, when every pre-teen local had a 4K camera and 5G connection in their pocket.

I recall being wildly optimistic about tech and connectivity growing up in the late 90s and 00s. It's not that I thought we would live in a techno-utopia by now; I just defaulted to assuming the slope of the year-to-year trajectory we were on would continue forever. What I finally recognize now is that said time period was the wild west era of a groundbreaking technology, which meant two things were happening that couldn't sustain long-term: (1) giant corporations and governments hadn't yet captured the system to a suffocating extent, and (2) nerds were quite disproportionately represented among users, so the Internet was arguably set up to cater to us at the time (e.g., the structure of forums focused on long-form conversations and organized information retention, as just one example).

Once the system is captured by a handful of nearly trillion-dollar megacorps, and they ruthlessly optimize for maximum engagement from a now society-wide user base, it's so obvious in hindsight why many things will deteriorate from the early days. Most average people are quite unlike the typical 2003 Internet power user; they see all the groundbreaking tech in the universe at their fingertips as a mere means to compete for social status, follow their celebrity heroes, and possibly shoot their shot at becoming a minor celebrity themselves. And so the Twitterverse and the Gram are born, let alone TikTok. The worst part, of course, is that even a large segment of the nerds who *did* participate in ST and similar forums 20 years ago get seduced over to the SM engagement d***-measuring contest, never to be heard from again. A classic race to the bottom. So now, all the 4K HDR content in the world is available within minutes of a good storm... but go back and try to locate it quickly a couple years later, and you might as well be in 1973.

Now, with all that out of the way... I'm a bit less dramatic about how the act of chasing in itself has evolved. There were always people in it for the "wrong" reasons; always attention whores; always hucksters filming their own faces with crocodile tears while clomping through fresh bloodstained rubble, even when it was with 20-lb camcorders in the 90s. Is a lot of that stuff worse per-capita now than 20 or 30 years ago? Possibly. On the other hand, as a degreed meteorologist, it's impressive to the point of my real surprise that hundreds of hobbyists now know how to interpret a sounding with meaningful literacy. Despite modern society functioning as a 24/7 engagement quest for many, it feels to me like the majority of chasers who last more than a year or two are genuinely interested; genuinely sharing in the same awe of nature that everyone back to Hoadley has tasted. Maybe witnessing a real-world spectacle that's entirely divorced from petty social ambitions, politics, or the whims of profit-seeking machines is actually pushing some of these kids who originally found storms on TikTok in the right direction.
 
I think social media allowed closer footage of tornadoes from motorists caught unawares---folks not even trying to be chasers.
 
I think social media allowed closer footage of tornadoes from motorists caught unawares---folks not even trying to be chasers.

And unfortunately, made people think they can have five minutes of fame from it too. "Here I am in a life-threatening situation - I better pull my phone out and record it!"
 
Storm Chasing, meet "Ready Player 1".

Maybe we have to or are going to go through the bell curve of social media dedication/importance to its ultimate dissolution. Perhaps in the near future, there will be a trend to the opposite way of life, a paradigm shift where people get back out to nature to get away from tech, even though we will be left with the networks we built in place. I think it will be interesting to see if the psychological need for digital self-importance either through negative stigma, or societies knowledge that too much of anything is bad for you. Maybe we will find out that like cigarettes, too much digital stimuli increases the risks for brain re-wiring and addictions? maybe in the end, too much social media, will lessen the desires for acceptance and likes, so popularity will wane.

as a species, are we living through a period where our brains are adapting to more stimulus? are we becoming worse at communicating verbally because of it? will we become more isolated/tribal as a species to recover our own identities and privacy, despite the ability to digitally reach out to anyone, anywhere, anytime?

I would assume this has been a topic for human geographers, researchers, psychologists for some time now, but it's interesting to ponder.
 
Agree with much of what @Brett Roberts and @Warren Faidley said, in a similar vein to the thread I posted earlier this year following my March 31 chase.

I killed both my YouTube channels last week, including my Keota video and its 100,000 - some views (the only semi - "viral" thing I've ever shot). It was fine was it was clearly defined as a video sharing platform. Now it tries to be like Tiktok or Facebook and the app feed is polluted with tons of ads/"sponsored" content, clickbait, and other crap, and lowest common denominator content gets elevated all the time. There's a word for that.

There are still a few channels that really, consistently do produce quality content that have managed to gain a substantial following (such as chaser Trey Greenwood's "Convective Chronicles," but those are the exception these days and it's clearly been quite a grind for them to get to where they are).

I'll eventually create a new channel (or two - I was far more active on my railfan channel for a long time, with over 15 years of train videos that are now gone from the Internet). Maybe I'll re-cut and reupload the Keota video for the one-year anniversary next March 31.
 
Convective chronicles is pretty good, Pecos Hank is "entertaining", and he does shoot quality video. Skip Talbot, Cameron Nixon and a few other channels for educational and technical refresh, are also good... I agree with you Andy, ads and click bail kill it for me.
 
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