I wanted to be with you alone
And talk about the weather
But traditions I can trace against the child in your face
Won't escape my attention
You keep your distance with a system of touch
And gentle persuasion
I'm lost in admiration could I need you this much
Oh, you're wasting my time
You're just wasting time
Have you noticed how many conversations today seem to start with the weather? It used to be just getting on elevators. Now, “sorry I am late, the roads are horrible” or “this winter seems to be lasting forever, isn’t it?” My father used to say that people that talk about the weather just don’t have anything better to talk about. No longer is the weather conversation just an icebreaker for conversation. Increasingly it is a substitute.
Simon Sinek talks about a younger generation having a more difficult time with deep relationships. With the onslaught of social media and technology, the bombardment of information has frozen the Millennial into not creating and sustaining as many deep relationships. Relationships for everyone seem to be getting more difficult to sustain. Although divorce rates seem to have plateaued, there is a lot of data that attributes this to less people getting married, waiting longer to exchange vows and simply cohabitating.
It used to be that we focused on the weather when extremes might interrupt an otherwise enjoyable get together or sporting event. But somewhere along the line the media seems to have impacted this with both awareness of unusual weather and predictions of potential catastrophe. Add to this, social media and the political football of climate change and now we can’t have a conversation without the weather. We are bombarded with weather “news” especially when there is little else to talk about or where there is tragedy.
The 24-hour news cycle has given a forum to the weather focus together with the cultural attraction to exaggeration. To get our attention the “breaking story” of the weather forecast can literally scare us to listen. It sells. The more exaggeration we hear reminds us of past experiences. On the other hand, the predictive analytics to prepare us for the truly extraordinary weather are compromised when the constant exaggeration replaces the truly specific instances that need our attention.
The weather has become a metaphor of our society in this way. The exaggeration to create relevance now occurs daily in politics, social media and the news. We see aggrandizement in stories we tell each other or reported crowds at events or accomplishments. The “fake news” today is a direct result to be the first or the biggest story. Social media makes everyone an expert, an author or a witness. Further damage is caused when we start to use words like racism, bullying, terrorism, fraud and harassment more frequently and out of past context. These are all present in our society. But the frequency of many of these words usage has changed the definitions. Now an incident seemingly must be labelled to categorize it and to add emphasis. Whether it is a category 3 hurricane or bullying it defines the seriousness quicker and with more relevance. It gets attention. The problem is there are unintended consequences. Preparing for a storm that gets downgraded (or maybe doesn’t even happen) may have economic implications. Calling an action harassment can have permanent professional and reputational damage. Facts can be exaggerated in both cases for impact. Again, not to trivialize provable and horrible injustices. But the dramatization of being the first to shout “fire” in the theatre combined with an overstatement to gain effect, shows that word choice is more impactful than ever in a media driven world.
Recently there has been much discussion of data. Facebook, Amazon, Google and others now are using voice and internet data for targeting that would make George Orwell cringe. The impact on social media on suicide rates and brain development is increasingly scary. Peer awareness has amplified peer pressure and caused more people to be conscious of what they don’t have in life. This is increasingly stratifying our society as we are fed more information of what the algorithms suggest we prefer or attract. It just is logical that this streaming of data to preferences would support more exaggeration and bias.
So, if you wonder, why are society seems to be more separated, extreme and/or opinionated (not to mention narcissistic), blame it on the weather. An example of where we learn the behavior and unconsciously accept it in society. There was a day when school was rarely impacted by the weather. Now merely the threat closes schools much more frequently. This has unintended consequences, not the least of which is it teaches a generation to broaden their definition of excuses. Just like the broadened use of words expands their definition, so does the extremeness of talking and forecasting the weather gains attention and changes behavior.