Hannah Metzler will give an online talk at the Spring 2021 DIGSUM Seminars.
DIGSUM is an interdisciplinary academic research centre for the study of the relationship between digital technology and society.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the world’s population to sudden challenges that elicited strong emotional reactions. While investigations of responses to tragic one-off events exist, studies on the evolution of collective emotions during a pandemic are missing.
We analysed the digital traces of emotional expressions in tweets during five weeks after the start of outbreaks in 18 countries and six different languages.
We observed an early strong upsurge of anxiety-related terms in all countries, consistent with the notion that social sharing amplifies initial emotional responses. Sadness-terms rose and anger-terms decreased about two weeks later in most countries, when casualties increased and social distancing measures were implemented. Positive emotions remained relatively stable. Our results show some of the most enduring changes in emotional expression observed in long periods of social media data. This kind of time-sensitive analyses of large-scale samples of emotional expression have the potential to inform mental health support and help tailor risk communication.