Expect to see the name Jonas on your social feed this weekend more frequently than usual (unless, of course, your Twitter feed is comprised of updates exclusively from the Jonas Brothers. In that case, my condolences).
If you haven’t heard, here in the mid-Atlantic, a blizzard is set to take over major cities such as Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and New York. Winter Storm Jonas is supposed to be a doozy, with some areas to receive over two feet of snow and over 3,000 flights cancelled ahead of its arrival.
Severe weather is always cause for concern and can have devastating effects. We’ve seen this in recent years with the California wildfires, the state’s debilitating drought, and Hurricane Sandy. Some have seen it firsthand, and some have seen it through the glowing screen of an iPhone.
Social media has inherently changed the way the world reacts to events. No longer is the weather just a topic for agonizing small talk while taking the elevator to work – it fuels thousands of social posts and sensational news articles.
With epic snowstorms and people cooped up indoors as a result, social feeds are brimming with complaints about the weather, people complaining about people complaining about the weather, and phrases from news organizations such as “blockbuster blizzard” and “snowpocalypse”.
Below are some ways in which the severe weather of today is different from the severe weather of a decade ago (you know, aside from the whole global warming thing).
The fact that everyone usually has a smart phone welded to their hand makes instantly communicating with people much easier, and in dire circumstances this ability to reach a community of people can be life saving. For instance, in 2014, when motorists were stranded on a highway in Atlanta due to snow, a woman from Marietta, GA created a “SnowedOutAtlanta” Facebook page to help stranded motorists and get others to join the cause.
The page garnered over 50,000 followers and connected stranded motorists with nearby people offering shelter. The page even allowed motorists, whose phones were dying, to pin their last location before they lost mobile service.
In these circumstances, social media doesn’t just offer safety in numbers, it can send an army.
- Everybody’s “in the know”. Literally always.
Gone are the days of flipping between a few local news channels to get the deets. In fact, in 2014, East coast dwellers knew a small-scale earthquake happened not by turning to their trusted news anchors, but by scrolling through their Twitter feed.
With The Weather Channel, most government officials, and a growing number of local police departments on Twitter, people across the country aren’t scrambling to learn more. They already know it, and were told by fifty separate people and officials.
Even as I write this, #Blizzard2016 is trending on Twitter – a topic that is constantly growing with updated information and suggestions for riding out the storm. NBC Washington tweeted updates on emptying grocery stores, and is even calling on people to tweet photos of how they’re prepping for the snowstorm. Looking for some recipes to make while indoors? Wine Enthusiast Magazine tweeted about a warming pumpkin soup recipe followers can whip up.
- Humor that brings us all together
The storm (pun-intended) of social media posts surrounding blizzards is fodder for humorous articles, memes, and satirical posts. Last year, The Onion posted a satirical article poking fun at the frantic nature of social posts and media coverage surrounding the first snowstorm of 2015. It’s title? “NYC Mayor: ‘Reconcile Yourselves With Your God, For All Will Perish In The Tempest”. The popular comedy website Funny or Die created its own Weather App. And humorous Tweets abound, like this one.
Though severe weather is a serious matter, online communities can make you (begrudgingly) smile, even after shoveling snow took the entire morning because you kept taking breaks to Tweet about it.