The impact of social media on storm chasing

Cal Newport has some good advice in “Digital Minimalism”, if only the addicted would read it: Get off SM, fill your life with other things that interest you (OK, head start there - severe weather and storm chasing!) and then use technology not for its own sake (i.e. SM scrolling to kill time or fill a void in your life) but only to the extent it supports your interests. Which should lead them to ST (and other niche forums) if they really take time to discern the best platform to indulge their interests.

There's a site that I write for on occasion that primarily revolves around being prepared for emergencies and being an asset rather than a liability. But two of the big undercurrents of things that we write about involve adventures and in being active in your community. Both of which seems to be a lost art in the SM world. I see it at the Legion, I see it at church, I see it even in my neighborhood. People love scrolling through the adventures of "influencers" (I despise that term tbh), but never take adventures of their own.

I have met people via SM, but there is a much longer list of friends that I got close to via some of the old forums that I've been on over the years (especially car forums). Some of those forums don't exist at all anymore, but several of us have been able to stay in touch over the years.

I was very fortunate when I got into the ham radio world to have mentors that took it upon themselves to take me under their wing and show me the ropes. Some of those have unfortunately passed (and I think another one of them is probably close to that himself), but several are still around and I can (and do) still go to them with any questions I have about things. As I've gotten older, and I think in part due to the example they showed me, I've found an immense joy in paying that forward and mentoring others. That's part of why I started writing for the site I alluded to earlier in this post. I've also found enjoyment in helping chasers (who are willing) learn about cars and how to do more of their own maintenance and minor work. I don't just do the work for them, but I help them through it. I've grown to enjoy that serving aspect of life, and am very fortunate to have a significant other who not only appreciates that, but encourages and supports it.
 
Well, presumably no one - me for sure - likes producing content only to have no one read it or watch it. Part of the joy of doing all of this is that. How many authors would keep pumping out books if suddenly their main publication avenue was bypassed? Clearly I have an audience, but they're just not being allowed to reach me. I'm being strongarmed by big tech to play ball by their new "world's" rules. There is a definite real-world cost to not doing it, at least for me. That being said, the times I *have* tried to play ball on social media by those rules, it hasn't worked. Not the way having a web site with tons of organic search traffic did.

Anyway, a glimmer of hope is taking a look at the "current users online" count at the bottom of the ST front page. It fluctuates between 100 and 150 on any given day. Right now at 4:50pm CST Wednesday it is at 527! Sure, some of that could be bot traffic, but if just half of those are real people, that's more readership/participation than most of us are getting on social media.
 
I have been coming to Stormtrack since January of 2009, mainly as a lurker, but have posted some over the years. I enjoy reading what people post and do my best to learn from it. I get the instant gratification of SM, but while I do a little of it (have a Twitter/X account (use it for weather information), have a FB account I use to keep up with friends and watch YT channels like Daniel Shaw's when he is chasing and I also have a weather website), but that is all. I have no interest in the rest.

I have had my weather under 2 prior domains since January 2009, in-addition to the current one. I made it mainly as a way for me to keep tabs on the weather at home, use it as a learning tool for a little programming knowledge (which I do not do often enough to remember when a script needs to be updated/changed) and post real-time weather data from my weather station.
 
Well, presumably no one - me for sure - likes producing content only to have no one read it or watch it. Part of the joy of doing all of this is that. How many authors would keep pumping out books if suddenly their main publication avenue was bypassed?

I’m not so sure about that Dan. Lots of people journal just for themselves, and I typed up journals of every chase over the years (separate from chase reports) that are only for me, and maybe some close family/friends. Writing is a great way to clarify thought and make sense of your adventures, as well as document them. Even a book, if it were a memoir, I could see value in doing as a legacy to leave with one’s family. Of course I get what you are saying, but my point is to encourage you and others to keep writing and creating. There is great intrinsic value in it, whether anyone else sees it or not.
 
Another thing that affects me (and I'm sure it does others) is the idea that being on social media is necessary to be included in society in some way. Social media is engaged in a long-term coup campaign against the web, and it appears they're winning. If I'm not on social media, will I just be standing in the wilderness talking to myself if I stay on the web?

You can see this yourself right now by doing a search for the Greensburg tornado. Up until a couple of years ago, my chase log for that day used to be the first or second result for that keyphrase. Now my Greensburg page doesn't even appear anywhere until the third or fourth page of results, sometimes not at all! It's now all local TV and newspaper stories along with a couple of NWS pages on Greensburg. Another good example was when I caught the Gateway Arch being struck by lightning on a DSLR still last summer. The top Google search result for that event was a small-market radio station's web site article *talking about my photo* while my own web page on the event wasn't even on the first page of results!
This sounds to me like an opportunity for a new start-up search engine. It could be marketed as a counter to what Google (and maybe also Bing? I don't know, but they often seem to produce fairly similar results) is doing in this regard. I think there is an opportunity here, given how much people with a wide variety of perspectives dislike the mainstream media companies. That said, the problem of disinformation and deliberate promotion of falsehoods is real, and I do not know what practicalities would be involved in keeping that kind of stuff out of a search engine that does not mainly rely on mainstream media. That is a problem for someone with far greater computer/technical knowledge than mine, but if there were a way, I think there would be a market for it. Dan's web page on a lightning strike on the Gateway Arch should certainly come above a news story about it in a web search, and I would appreciate a search engine that did that, if the garbage could be minimized. I think others would, too.
 
To @John Farley ’s point above, I use Duck Duck Go as my search engine. But I still got the results @Dan Robinson described when I tried the two searches he mentioned as examples. Duck Duck Go is still a good alternative though, mainly for privacy reasons. They also seem to do less filtering of “disinformation.” I put that in quotes because I don’t necessarily want a tech company defining for me what’s “disinformation” and what is just an alternate opinion. I can decide for myself based on the source and based on what seems to be the consensus view. Regardless of individual political leanings, we should all be able to agree there is often a political bias when a tech company decides something is “disinformation.” I recall a situation where I did a Google search for a human rights situation in China, for example, and no matter how many letters I typed the auto-fill never completed the search text, but on Duck Duck Go it did. It seems that the type of thing Dan noted shows an increasingly narrow view that only the “experts” (mainstream media, government, academia) are credible sources and individuals with knowledge cannot be. If this were true, we may as well get rid of Wikipedia.
 
I've seen a rise in alternative search engines to get away from tracking and data mining, one of them is Brave. I don't know how well it performs or not, I just know there is a push to get away from having everything you search for being sold to companies, or having map services like google, snapshot everything and track you at all times.
 
To @John Farley ’s point above, I use Duck Duck Go as my search engine. But I still got the results @Dan Robinson described when I tried the two searches he mentioned as examples. Duck Duck Go is still a good alternative though, mainly for privacy reasons. They also seem to do less filtering of “disinformation.” I put that in quotes because I don’t necessarily want a tech company defining for me what’s “disinformation” and what is just an alternate opinion. I can decide for myself based on the source and based on what seems to be the consensus view. Regardless of individual political leanings, we should all be able to agree there is often a political bias when a tech company decides something is “disinformation.” I recall a situation where I did a Google search for a human rights situation in China, for example, and no matter how many letters I typed the auto-fill never completed the search text, but on Duck Duck Go it did. It seems that the type of thing Dan noted shows an increasingly narrow view that only the “experts” (mainstream media, government, academia) are credible sources and individuals with knowledge cannot be. If this were true, we may as well get rid of Wikipedia.
I agree with @JamesCaruso re: DuckDuckGo. Haven't used Google in several years. The last time I looked myself up on Google, the top result was my political party voter registration (I kid you not.) On DuckDuckGo my top results were various papers I'd co-authored. And now I realize I'm not discussing the impact of social media on chasing anymore but I did want to get that affirmation of James' point out there before I stop: there is a difference in the search engines.
 
To @John Farley ’s point above, I use Duck Duck Go as my search engine. But I still got the results @Dan Robinson described when I tried the two searches he mentioned as examples. Duck Duck Go is still a good alternative though, mainly for privacy reasons. They also seem to do less filtering of “disinformation.” I put that in quotes because I don’t necessarily want a tech company defining for me what’s “disinformation” and what is just an alternate opinion. I can decide for myself based on the source and based on what seems to be the consensus view. Regardless of individual political leanings, we should all be able to agree there is often a political bias when a tech company decides something is “disinformation.” I recall a situation where I did a Google search for a human rights situation in China, for example, and no matter how many letters I typed the auto-fill never completed the search text, but on Duck Duck Go it did. It seems that the type of thing Dan noted shows an increasingly narrow view that only the “experts” (mainstream media, government, academia) are credible sources and individuals with knowledge cannot be. If this were true, we may as well get rid of Wikipedia.
OK one more point re: Wikipedia. I never rely on Wikipedia except for science/math information--areas where there is an objective truth that is not dependent on one's interpretation or ideology. As some areas of science become increasingly politicized, the utility of Wikipedia in turn becomes increasingly marginalized--I just can't rely on a source that can be updated or modified by pseudo-anonymous internet entities with unknown pedigrees.
 
My issue with social media largely revolves around the outrage culture that it has manifested. Some of that DOES actually intersect with chasing, as anyone who has witnessed so-called "Weather Twitter drama" can attest. It's drawn a lot of people into the hobby of course, as a sort of catalyst even more powerful than what the release of Hollywood's Twister did in the 1990s. That probably was bound to happen anyhow. Nevertheless, a recent NYT opinion poll noted as follows:
Loudonville, NY. Eighty-four percent of Americans say that some Americans not exercising their freedom of speech in everyday situations due to fear of retaliation or harsh criticism is either a very (40%) or somewhat (44%) serious problem, according to a new national New York Times Opinion/Siena College Poll. Over half, 55%, of Americans say that they have held their tongue, that is, not spoken freely over the last year because they were concerned about retaliation or harsh criticism, and compared to 10 years ago by 46-21% Americans are less, rather than more, free to express their viewpoint on politics, and by 35-28% less, rather than more, free to discuss issues of race. C.f., 84% Say Americans being Afraid to Exercise Freedom of Speech is a Serious Problem

So, my issue largely revolves around the disproportional reactions those on social media have to things they don't like and how they feel compelled to punish those who think or act differently.* In chasing, it may mean having online mobs castigating you for some simple mistake (I'm not defending blatantly dangerous driving behaviors) or criticizing how, when and where you chase and trying to contact your employers when they feel their righteous indignation warrants it. It's just not moving us in a positive direction socially, so I don't engage much with Weather Weenies on social media. I don't know that it's had a largely net positive on the hobby, but many of the same issues people have been raising since the 90s are simply exacerbated by video evidence plastered all over the web. Most of those concerns are not new per se (e.g., poor driving, too many people on higher end setups, lightbars, negative encounters with the local or state constabulary, relying too much on technology and CAMs over learning how to forecast, etc.).

*I'm well aware that the First Amendment protects you from government sanction but not from criticism or reproach from individuals or private entities.
 
My issue with social media largely revolves around the outrage culture that it has manifested.
Agreed, I see that as almost purposefully designed (tin foil thought) but maybe it's organic to society at large when you put millions of people on a platform spouting off nonsense. I can't really say for sure. but it seems to me, people today are way easier to anger, emotionally react and it shows up in aggressive driving, hot tempers tied to stressful situations (the FOMO of trying to get action footage of tornadoes which are tied to SM likes and monetized hopes and dreams). Our world today seems to reflect the SM culture that has outpaced reason and thought, for reaction and response. Something in the last 2 generations of people is missing these days, everything turns into crisis mode when your problem isn't really a problem. My personal view is, we (those of born in the 70's and beyond) don't truly know what problems or suffering are as a mass society. So, we just sit around and create them, self-destructing, from the inside out. There are numerous reasons for that I think, but this chat is for Social Media and chasing, I won't diverge from that more than need be.
 
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Agreed, I see that as almost purposefully designed (tin foil thought) but maybe it's organic. I can't really say for sure. but it seems to me, people today are way easier to anger, emotionally react and it shows up in aggressive driving, hot tempers tied to stressful situations (the FOMO of trying to get action footage of tornadoes which are tied to SM likes and monetized hopes and dreams). Our world today seems to reflect the SM culture that have outpaced reason and thought, for reaction and response. Something in the last 2 generations of people is missing these days, everything turns into crisis mode when your problem isn't really a problem. My personal view is, we (those of born in the 70's and beyond) don't truly know what problems or suffering are as a mass society. So, we just sit around and create them, self-destructing, from the inside out. There are numerous reasons for that I think, but this chat is for Social Media and chasing, I won't diverge from that more than need be.
I think a lot of it has to do with the relative anonymity of on-line posting. A related example--I noticed when driving to work in NJ that people were much more aggressive before the time change, when that hour meant we were driving in relative darkness. After the time change, it was light enough to see the other drivers in their cars and the level of aggressiveness dropped perceptibly. In other words: when they knew they could be seen they were less likely to be aggressive. That's an empirical observation but integrated over years and years...and years and years....
 
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