I used to be on-line, like I at all times appear to be, when Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida earlier this week. I flicked via Twitter and endlessly scrolled TikTok because the afternoon stretched into night.
It was a bizarre, troubling expertise. Being on-line throughout a pure catastrophe like Ian is an odd mixture of dwell devastation and the same old web oddities. Flood waters rising and folks memeing it in actual time in an countless stream of updates. That’s the essence of being on-line in 2022: Every part is terrible, let’s maintain scrolling.
We’re simply now starting to see the precise toll Ian took. The Sun Sentinel reported at the very least 21 individuals have died in Florida, with hundreds extra individuals left unaccounted. Thousands and thousands were without power Friday after the Class 4 storm pummeled the state with excessive winds and flooding. Even for a state fairly acquainted with hurricanes, Ian proved to be significantly terrible.
“This could possibly be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s historical past,” President Joe Biden said Thursday afternoon. “The numbers are nonetheless unclear, however we’re listening to early reviews of what could also be substantial lack of life.”
As this lethal storm reached its peek this week, the primary viral video I noticed was…of a shark. It’s kind of of web lore: a faux picture of a shark swimming via a catastrophe zone that famously resurfaces throughout huge storms. The first illegitimate photo, of a shark swimming on a freeway, appeared in 2011 amid Hurricane Irene. Since then, there’s been varied reiterations of the meme. So when a real video of what seems to be a small shark (or another kind of fish) thrashing about on a flooded road in Fort Myers, Florida, surfaced throughout Ian, individuals instantly began sharing it throughout their feeds. The brief clip has since racked up greater than 13 million views.
Hurricane Shark wasn’t the one video to go viral as Ian hit. Some dude ran out to fly a Philadelphia Eagles flag because the storm made landfall. In one other clip, individuals swam in the storm surge (which we undoubtedly do not advise). On TikTok, you could watch as zookeepers cheerfully walked storks and different animals to a toilet for security.
I would categorize all these movies as curiosities: surreal clips of animals exterior of their habitats and folks making dangerous selections, two hallmarks of the web. You may even name it enjoyable, relying on which social media platform you had been on. As a result of over on a distinct nook of the web, the legit horrors of Hurricane Ian had been inescapable.
On TikTok, individuals went dwell as their houses had been flooded, seemingly unprepared for the injury and coping with actual, critical hazard. As The Washington Publish‘s Taylor Lorenz noted on Twitter, TikTok is the place for real-time information. Scrolling via my FYP was like watching a found-footage horror film in actual time. The footage turned so overwhelming that I needed to put my telephone down. Seeing all these individuals in real-life hazard was harrowing to look at, and it made me really feel helpless. There was no aid from TikTok’s savvy algorithm.
In fact, there was additionally your standard clout-grifting off the wake of the storm. Lorenz famous individuals had been stealing streams and pretending they had been genuine. NBC Information tradition reporter Kat Tenbarge posted that individuals had been asking for engagement on their content material because the storm performed out.
That is all to say that whereas there could also be a really actual Hurricane Shark on the market, swimming down a Florida road, the web through which it exists hasn’t modified very a lot since 2011. Individuals are nonetheless exploiting a pure catastrophe for clicks, even these on the heart of the storm. There is a effective line between documenting an occasion and filming issues for clout, asking individuals to comply with alongside. And even the identical hoaxes popped up on our timelines (Hurricane Shark, meet Street Manatee). Even because the web evolves, our on-line habits does not.
As Bo Burnham as soon as sang, the web is a bit little bit of all the things all the time. Even within the eye of a storm, that continues to be true.