Wednesday, March 8, 2023

How Not to Internet

So, apparently, I follow the Reno division of the National Weather Service on Twitter. Or they follow me. I’m not really sure. All I know is that I get alerts about their posts now, which I don’t mind this winter, because I’m interested in how many more damned feet of snow are going to fall in the Sierras before we can finally go back up to snowboard. The current answer is, “A lot more.”

I swear, if anyone even so much as whispers the word “drought” this summer, I’m going to lose it. But I digress…

The other day, the NWS Reno feed (Check out all the exciting weather action on Twitter @NWSReno) had a tweet about the “atmospheric river” headed our way tomorrow. We’ve been hearing that term a lot lately around here in the news. It’s an exciting and fancy weather term, so no one in the weather reporting business misses an opportunity to throw it out there.

While “atmospheric river” is getting the feel of being overplayed, one follower of the NWS Reno feed put on a clinic on how not to respond in these types of term overuse situations.

Howard Smith replied: Talking about an atmospheric river is kinda like the Sahara desert ( desert desert). If you remember your fluid dynamics the entire atmosphere acts as a river!!!!

This is a fabulous example of how not to internet. What Howard is really saying here, to the tens of people who also follow NWS Reno, is this – “Hello, my name is Howard, and I don’t have many people in my life who validate me. I think I am very smart, and I want you to think I’m smart also, even if my boss never tells me I’m smart, even though I’m way smarter than him and should have his job, and I would have his job if it wasn’t for all the bs office politics and Brenda in HR who definitely has it out for me ever since I pointed out that she shouldn’t feed her cat so much because it looks really fat in all the pictures on her desk, and that maybe she should think about cutting back on the treats herself while she’s at it.”

Howard is obviously interneting wrong. I read Howard’s tweet and just shook my head. That’s an example of interneting correctly.

If I was interneting like Howard, I would have responded: “Gosh, Howard, for such an obviously intelligent guy such as yourself, your grammar is as bad as your need to feel smart! I’ll let the “kinda” slide since tweets are informal, but if you remember your third-grade punctuation lessons, informality doesn’t excuse the glaringly obvious missing comma after “dynamics.” Also, what’s with the space between your opening round bracket (you probably call it a parenthesis, but that’s actually the term for the word or phrase inside the brackets) for your parenthetical phrase and the first word of said parenthetical phrase? That’s not supposed to be there, brainiac. And four exclamation points? Bro. And bagging on saying, “Sahara desert?” Really? The Arabic word for desert is “sahra,” and “sahara” is its pluralization. So, if you’re going to be all cutesy and pretend that we should all be using Arabic words in our everyday English communications, you really should have said “Sahara Deserts.” That would have actually been grammatically correct. It still wouldn’t have made you seem smart to anyone, or morally superior in any way, but at least it wouldn’t have been so sadly, sadly wrong.”

You can see the obvious difference between the correct interneting reaction and this incorrect, desperate cry for help style.

NWS Reno took an intermediate approach with Captain Smart Guy. They didn’t internet poorly, necessarily, but they did respond, which I would have counseled against, had they asked.

They referred Howard to a helpful article from on what an atmospheric river actually is: a flowing column of condensed water vapor in the atmosphere responsible for significant levels of rain and snow, especially in the western United States.

Take that, Super Guy. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which employs people that surely understand fluid dynamics slightly better than you (even though you should obviously be running NOAA, and probably would be if your boss and Brenda didn’t have it out for you), thinks that an atmospheric river is not only a real thing, but also grammatically correct. I’ll bet they even call it the Sahara Desert.

Internet better in the future, Howard.

Regarding NOAA’s definition, I’m not sure why the western United States gets to have all the atmospheric fun, but if you’ll excuse me, I need to contact them and ask if they can do anything to divert the river.

I want to go snowboarding!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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