All Social Media Platforms Suck, And None of Them Care About You
I just got back from a nice sunrise, coffee-in-hand, neighborhood dog walk. I love this time of year. There’s a hint of pre-dawn light in the sky to accompany my morning weather forecasting, and I can get the dog out for a walk during the 6 o’clock hour as the sun just starts peeking through the trees in the neighborhood. There’s another reason for a boosted mood on this Tuesday morning - we’re seeing a reprieve from recent dense wildfire smoke that is allowing the sun to actually shine bright enough to cast shadows again!
The streets are still lined with tree debris from the June 29th derecho that swept through central Illinois with widespread winds gusting between 60-100 MPH. The cities of Champaign and Urbana will be working to pick up the tree debris in coming weeks. I’ve got a new VLOG that chronicles the events of that weekend, and you can watch it here:
That’s not really why I’m here though. I kind of just want to vent and explore some ideas. This is some carryover from a few tweets that I’ve sent out into the Twitter void, and some thoughts that I’ve typed out and deleted before hitting send.
A new social media platform rolled out over the weekend, Threads, from Meta. It’s a Twitter reboot, tied to your Instagram profile. At face value, that sounds neat to me. Instagram was one of my first favorite social media platforms because of the simple visual nature. I felt like it was just people sharing photos of things that brought them joy during their day. This is throwing it back to like, 2012-2016 Instagram, before they rolled out stories and reels to compete with TikTok and other platforms. The great homogenization of social media.
Twitter has been my favorite social media home since then, maybe second to YouTube, which we’ll table for now and then circle back.
But Twitter, Twitter has been the simple, chronological feed that has best suited me for rolling out critical weather information that is often time sensitive. I can craft a quick message when the weather compels me to do so, and the folks who have chosen to hear what I have to say are able to get that message at the top of their feed when I send it out.
Twitter was purchased by Elon Musk several months ago, and since then, the social media platform has threatened to blow itself up every week. They’ve got dwindling resources and a rudderless leader who doesn’t have any of our interests in mind, so why in the world would I make that a permanent, primary home for what I sometimes deem to be critical information? Whether it’s my thoughts before a damaging weather event, my observations from the field during the event, or information being relayed on areas that have been damaged by storms - on July 1st, with severe storms threatening central Illinois while many residents were still without power and cleaning up debris from storms two days earlier, Elon decided to play with Twitter and limit users to 600 posts per day, rendering the platform useless. Nobody could see my updates because everyone was over their 600 post limit. I literally do not know if the social media platform Twitter will exist in it’s current form 6 months from now.
That’s going to be a no, from me. I’m still on Twitter doing what one does there, but less and less does it feel like a web home that I care about, or that I feel like cares about me.
It feels like Twitter, with an aroma of fresh optimism. I joined right away, and threw a few ‘threads’ into the feed. Again, it kind of plays like Twitter, but there’s an algorithmic element to your feed. You get threads from folks you have chosen to follow, with a mix of threads from folks Threads thinks you should follow. That’s… probably fine? It needs work though, as users including myself found themselves bouncing between a thread of mostly folks you’ve chosen to follow while sometimes being given you a feed with absolutely nothing you’ve got any interest in.
It has potential to be fun, but it also just feels like another hollow place to throw the things that I’m curating with love, blood, sweat, and tears in the real world. Whether it’s thoughtful weather analysis on a high-impact weather event, or a new weather video that I’ve spent days curating after days spent on the road filming - why does Threads deserve to be the home for this work?
It’s been like four days since the Threads roll-out, and here’s what I think: they all suck, and none of them care about us.
I want to crash-land this conversation on the topic of YouTube now. You could say YouTube has actually been my longest-lasting happy relationship with social media, but it’s because I’ve mostly thought about it entirely different.
I’m shaking my head at myself, because just this past winter I made and posted a video to my YouTube channel about how I wanted to start going about things different on that platform, embracing it more as a social media home, a community to be a part of!
Going back to when I started my YouTube account in 2006, I’d always thought of it as a video server. It was a place that I could upload my storm chasing & weather highlight videos easily, and then link them to my website. I’d go film storms, create a video of the storm, upload it to YouTube, and then embed the video on a storm chase log chapter on my website full of words, photos, and analysis from the chase. I didn’t care how many effing views I got, and I didn’t even realize folks were subscribing to each others channels on YouTube for an entire decade. I didn’t view it as a social media platform where getting followers or views mattered at all.
I started getting into following vloggers of all kinds on YouTube in ~ 2016-2018, folks doing lots of mostly not-storm chasing stuff. Camping, living off the grid, aviation buffs, farmers, drummers and other musicians, travel vloggers, gardeners, and sure, some other storm chasing vloggers. I started getting into subscribing to other channels, and as YouTube began rolling out monetization it seemed there was some incentive to recruit an audience of my own.
I started caring about creating eye-catching thumbnails for my videos and witty, hyperbolic titles and adding “PLEASE SUBSCRIBE” banners to my videos all because that’s what the internet said you were supposed to do. Which brings me to the video I made this winter, explaining how I suddenly felt like I’d been neglecting my YouTube channel a bit, and wanted to think of ways to post more routine videos to keep traffic flowing and the audience growing.
Yep, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I, a cranky-old man who has spent his entire life happily enjoying thunderstorms alone in a field and then making a video about it found himself digging around in his back pockets for ideas on ways to impress people he doesn’t know on the internet.
In some ways, that sounds like a fun challenge, and it’s not entirely one I’m turning against. I’m just turning away from the idea that all of this work should be done on somebody else’s home. You think YouTube cares about you, the creator? Look at some of the revenue numbers from the biggest creators and the most viral videos out there in 2023. Videos with a million views might net you $150 after YouTube skims all of their arbitrary cut from the top. That is, if you’re lucky enough to break through the algorithm.
Look at the views on this video over time and tell me this is natural:
Ad revenue looks the same on viral videos. Growing growing growing, AAAAND that’s enough of that. This video was given some nice exposure for about one hour before apparently no one in the world wanted to watch it anymore. When I see unnatural, manipulated metrics like that on a video that I’ve spent hours and hours spread across days or weeks curating, it feels so incredibly deflating.
So then what, if you’re a storm chaser looking for views and/or to make some of your money back from storm chasing? I’ve mostly given up on media sales in any form as well. This isn’t even a gripe on any one particular TV network, or any one particular broker, but in 15 years of working in the industry I can tell you that if you’re looking for anything more than a couple hundred bucks paid out to you 2-3 years later after you film some of the best video of your life, don’t waste your time.
Anymore, find me here. As in this website. MY home on the internet. I pay the bills here and I'll decide what we do and how we do it.
I’m throwing it back to 2004. I’m a Midwestern meteorologist focused on disruptive, high-impact weather, who observes severe storms and curates videos about them and I’ll make my own home on the internet, thank you very much. If you happen to subscribe or follow along on some of the external channels that I share my work on, great!