The vast majority of Tweets are useless. Twitter feeds are an endless stream of #random and #unnecessary hashtags, shady shortened links, and poorly-made pictures hawking one's favorite political candidate (who probably sucks). And yet, we keep Tweeting. Why?
We keep Tweeting because we enjoy being a part of an echo chamber. Democrats like seeing a constant feedback of fellow liberals and Republicans enjoy their own conservative bubbles. Sports fans follow sports accounts and get lost in the same sports Tweets over and over again. Weather geeks are no different.
The repetitive nature of "Weather Twitter," as some of my friends not-so-affectionately call it, is intense. What one weatherman is Tweeting is what everyone is Tweeting. Almost every news station, local and national, has software set up to automatically send out severe weather alerts the second they cross the servers, leading to sometimes 9 or 10 of the exact same Tweet in a row: "Tornado Warning for XYZ County in ST until 9:15PM."
It makes sense that everyone is Tweeting the same thing. Everyone has their own set of followers, so only hardcore weather enthusiasts are seeing the same information over and over again. But the kicker is — hardly anyone seeing the tornado Tweets actually live in the areas affected by the storms. When we frantically Tweet "TAKE COVER!!!!" to a tornado-warned county with a population of 1,500, do you really think that anyone in that county is sitting there refreshing their feed waiting for the latest updates? Of course not. They're watching the local news. They're listening to weather radio. They're hearing the tornado sirens and running to the cellar.
There is an off chance that someone in a rural area will receive a warning or even a heads-up from someone Tweeting about a bad storm, but its safe to assume that those instances are few and far between.
Weather Twitter is a wonderful resource for those of us who are always online. The first place many people hear about bad storms in populated areas — from the Deep South to New York — is through social media. Many of us who live outside of the Birmingham television market know of the legendary James Spann due to his omnipresent Facebook and Twitter posts. Heck, the only reason I'm here today is because a friend sent me a link to John Cook's Tweet that Gawker was looking for a weather writer.
So while it does have its uses, sending out fifty Tweets a minute screaming that a tornado is headed towards a single barn on the Kansas landscape or talking about the temperature in Nowheresville is pretty much useless. When I see storm chasers and weather geeks pretend that they're doing yeoman's work and saving the world by Tweeting screenshots of their phone's radar software for a storm affecting virtually no one, I can't help but to laugh. Nobody cares about your Tweets but you and those who are intensely interested in the weather. It's very rare for people in rural areas who are affected by a natural disaster to actually see people hurriedly Tweeting about a disaster.
Most of the time, our Tweets are useless to the people we think are seeing them. All we're doing is Tweeting to ourselves and turning a tornado or flash flood in the middle of nowhere into a weather interest story. And that's perfectly fine by me. We all need our echo chambers.
[Top image of the Twitter logo via Twitter]