When a forecast doesn’t live up to its predictions, online bullies are quick to take to social media and target meteorologists.
NTV chief meteorologist Eddie Sheerr says he is no stranger to cyberbullying after a forecast goes wrong.
“It’s very unique here in that there’s only really two public figures that are giving out weather forecasts. So, the vitriol is directed at the people who are communicating it most frequently.”
A forecasted winter storm left the Avalon with less snow than anticipated on Tuesday, Jan. 9. The following day, Twitter was flooded with tweets from unhappy residents.
The initial forecast was put out Sunday night and predicted amounts between 20 and 30 cm. However, in the following two days, the estimated amounts decreased, resulting in a final total of 15-25cm. Despite these numbers, many users falsely claimed that Sheerr forecasted 40 cm of snow.
But that was never the case.
“What seems to happen is, I’ll put out a forecast two days before a storm and that’s the one people seem to latch onto, and people don’t seem to go searching for subsequent updates,” Sheerr said.
False accusations and expressions of frustration made their way to Twitter feeds and Facebook comment sections throughout the day on Wednesday.
While many people jumped at the chance to spread hate, there are others who chimed in with words of kindness for Sheerr.
‘We’re better than this’
Sherri Pritchett of Mount Pearl was among the group of people who came to Sheer’s defence.
“This is absolutely ridiculous,” said Pritchett. “I’ve lived in other places, and I’ve never seen this.”
Pritchett said she was disheartened after reading some of the messages targeted at Sheer. She said it seems like some Newfoundlanders take the weather personally; they often treat people like Eddie Sheerr as a “gatekeeper” of the forecast.
A self-proclaimed introvert and a Twitter user for the last 10 years, Pritchett has never been one to join in on big conversations online. She described herself as someone who doesn’t post in an attempt to get likes or to stir the pot.
But when she saw the messages posted online this past Wednesday, she couldn’t let it slide.
She joined the conversation not to cause any more problems, but in an attempt to make people stop and think.
Pritchett said the attention her tweet had gained left her feeling positive about the situation.
“That day I kinda was really happy to see that go far I think. I think that’s what I wanted whether or not I realized it consciously. I think I was trying to defend Eddie in some manner.”
When thinking back on the situation that had unfolded, she sighed in disappointment as she said, “we’re better than this.”
Don’t shoot the messenger
When asked about how these encounters make him feel, Sheerr said with a shrug, “It’s part of it. You have to be able to kind of have a bit of a thick skin and take it and deal with it.”
Sheerr has experienced his fair share of mean comments online. Having been in the meteorology field for over 15 years, he said he used to be much more affected by the hate than he is today.
His words of advice to anyone using social media are, “Think about what you say before you say it”.
Abby Butler is a student journalist studying at the College of the North Atlantic. A lover of photography from a young age, she aims to tell her stories as much through photos as she does writing.