The Aliens Are Coming

One of the human behavior books I read recently had an interesting story about aliens. I can’t remember which book and I will mess up some of the details but the point will emerge.

Some years ago a cult of people formed around the idea that aliens would arrive on a given day in the future. The group slowly gained followers and faithful in advance of the date of arrival. In the days leading up to the visit word about the cult spread to the media and, as sensational stories often do, the story became of greater interest to the press.

The prediction was that aliens would arrive on a specific date and time, late in the evening. The day arrived. Followers began to gather. The media circus set up their tents. The moment arrived…..and nothing happened.

Group leaders quickly began to adjust their calculations. They may have been off by an hour or two. Time marched on…..nothing happened. Further adjustments. One or two members became disillusioned and left, but most stayed.

The point of telling the story in the book was to described what happened to the cult members. Even after hours and hours of adjustments and excuses, and no aliens, a funny thing happened. The resolve of the remaining group members actually strengthened. They had poured so much energy and so much of themselves into their story that they were unable to allow themselves to give up on the effort they had made.

Aah! Crazy people, c’mon. They believed in aliens!


We got into a brief discussion about weather on Facebook last night on WeatherBrains (you can listen here, from about 13:18 to 21:15).

In a nutshell, the complaint, which has been growing in volume, was about the crazy and bogus weather information and forecasts that spread on Facebook. “So and so says there will be a major hurricane in Seattle next week, is that true?” We’ve all hear them.

The discussion turned to trying to figure out how this nonsense spreads. We all know how, look at Buzzfeed, look at the bottom of your station’s website pages. Sensational spreads. I submit that part of the problem is that the industry legitimized Facebook as a weather distribution platform and now we suffer the fruits of our labor. More accurately, the fruits of our non-labor. We ceded responsibility of digital weather to automated templates and succumbed to the siren song of the “Like” (read The Addiction of Like here). “We have to go where the people are!” we shouted. “If we’re not there they’ll get their weather information from someone else!”

James Spann and I argued about this for years, as you’ll hear in the WeatherBrains clip, and I was right. The image above is James raising his hand in defeat and remembering that he said a few years ago that Facebook was a lousy way to give and get weather information.

So, we can rant all we want. My suggestion is to leave. Renounce Facebook as a distribution vehicle for weather information. Yes, I know. We can’t leave. People still appreciate the personal connection, some of the information, and the entertainment we’re providing. I’m using Facebook right now for a community project. I get it.

The point is this. It is not going to get better unless we do something. We’ve poured a lot of ourselves into building this channel. But the aliens are not coming.


(Update: Thanks to @readydurham for posting a comment, please take a look. We need to remember there is no “right” given to any business to exist. The idea that we can take a tool and use it (in this case because we are being allowed by Facebook) is incorrect.


About Kevin Selle

Chief Meteorologist, KFDX-TV. Co-host, WeatherBrains.
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4 Responses to The Aliens Are Coming

  1. But the aliens did come. They were here, built huge complexes, downloaded all of our brains, then left without a trace. Oh, they left us Facebook.
    Actually, Facebook – like many other social media venues – are additional tools to reach slices of the community. The more outlets we have to tell our story, the better – as long as we can manage them all.
    Thanks. Good conversation.

    • Kevin Selle says:

      Have to disagree. People are telling their own stories there. That is part of the evil genius of Facebook. They have everybody by the you know what because they hooked us with our friends and family. Under the additional tools theory then we need to post everything on Pinterest and Tumblr and LinkedIn, and you should be allowed to broadcast into every private Facebook Group. I’m not about to walk into Starbucks and shout, “Partly Cloudy, 72.” at the top of my lungs in the middle of tables of people have their conversations. Yes, good conversation. Thanks for adding to it!

  2. Social media, TV mets, tornado sirens and mailings. Granny Smith still only believes what is inserted in her water bill every month. She doesn’t have TV or computer. Kids are hardly watching TV anymore. If I choose a social media lane to travel in, I have to rise above the other noise to be heard. IF I am an established, trusted voice, people will listen. We need lots of channels to get the messages out.

    • Kevin Selle says:

      Good discussion. I’ll play devil’s advocate. We could question “if I choose a social media lane” in the case of Facebook, where users are primarily there for friends and family, that you would be inserting yourself into that process. Also, “rise above the other noise” suggests that you are competing with every other brand for attention, which almost by nature means getting LOUDER. Not sure that is approaching from a user-centric position.

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