Weather.com's new answer to the social web, a new feature called My Friends Weather that's supposed to make us feel better about our loved-ones whereabouts during inclement weather, but instead does the exact opposite, as the tout covering their web site —"See Friends at Risk in Severe Weather"—suggests. It's as if the brains at The Weather Channel's digital office willed a way to integrate social media with their website, settling on this Facebook-driven worriers crack. The idea is simple: Find out where the people you care about are during threatening storms. For perpetual stresser-outters, like moms, the concept sounds like a calming tool. Instead of dwelling on the possible tree that has crushed your child, just check the little weather.com My Friends Weather widget and check-in to see if they're out of harm's way. But, it doesn't quite work like that.
Getting access to the service requires linking up one's Facebook account with Weather.com. The video below explains exactly how to do it, but it's very simple. During a Breaking Now alert that pops up at the top of the screen, click the "see friends at risk" link on the right hand side and "allow" the app access to your Facebook info. From then on, the default Facebook photos of the friends affected will show up alongside Breaking Now alerts. To see the full list click the "more" link, which will lead to that landing page pictured to the right. And, voila: Know your loved-ones whereabouts during bad weather.
Weather.com suggests this tool allows people to contact the ones they care about during these emergencies. And, it does do that. Right there, you can write on the wall of these affected people. If you care about someone you know where they live and could just go right to their wall, send them a fat e-mail, or even pick up the phone. The advantage of this tool is that it clues people into whether that big scary storm that hit Southern California was anywhere near their loved one living in Sherman Oaks.
That's not the only thing this tool is good for, though. Even just knowing where someone is during a tornado, or what have you, assuages some upset feelings. But, this doesn't give the right kind of details. All this does is tell you where your Facebook friends live -- or where they have inidicated they live on Facebook -- and the weather in that corresponding location. It doesn't use some fancy phone geo-tagging to figure where this person exists at that moment, which would be helpful, but rather the city in which they reside most of the time. If you care about someone, you already know where they live. And, if you see there is a nasty Derecho headed to New York, you will know that this person could be affected. But this tool does not give you a way to know if the power lines were taken out in your friend's neighborhood or if that was a suburb away. True, you might be able to warn a friend in danger: Look out, mean weather on the way! But, in our internet addiction society, anyone living on the web will know about a coming storm through social media loudmouths, or by checking their weather machines -- something some of us do instead of looking out the window.
This app more than any of that serves to freak someone out even more, giving them more humans to worry about, reminding them of all the peripheral loved ones (Facebook friends) who could possibly, maybe, but not definitely, be in danger. Moms everywhere will reload hoping their child's, or cousin's, or nieces, or co-workers, or long lost middle school friend's, face doesn't pop up on a list. And, if it does, expect frantic warning wall posts.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.