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Fear to Anger: Global Sentiments Towards COVID-19 Shift

Fear and Anger

The concern that individuals developed initially of the COVID-19 outbreak has given approach to anger over the course of the pandemic, a research of world sentiments led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has discovered.

In an evaluation of over 20 million tweets in English associated to the coronavirus, a global crew of communication researchers noticed that tweets reflecting concern, whereas dominant initially of the outbreak due to the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, have tapered off over the course of the pandemic.

Xenophobia was a typical theme amongst anger-related tweets, which progressively elevated, peaking on March, 12 – a day after the World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. The anger then developed to mirror emotions arising from isolation and social seclusion.

Accompanying this later shift is the emergence of tweets that present pleasure, which the researchers say prompt a way of satisfaction, gratitude, hope, and happiness. Tweets that mirrored unhappiness doubled, though they continue to be proportionally decrease than the opposite feelings. 

COVID-19 Sentiments

Graph displaying the evolving public feelings over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic primarily based on tweets. The determine offered is an prolonged model of the info revealed to embody newer information from the months of May and June. Credit: NTU Singapore

The fast evolution of world COVID-19 sentiments inside a brief time period factors to a necessity to tackle more and more unstable feelings via strategic communication by authorities and well being authorities, in addition to accountable habits by netizens earlier than they provide rise to “unintended outcomes,” mentioned Professor May O. Lwin of NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

Prof Lwin, who led the crew representing 4 nations, mentioned: “Worldwide, robust detrimental sentiments of concern have been detected within the early phases of pandemic however by early April, these feelings have step by step been changed by anger. Our findings counsel that collective points pushed by feelings, similar to shared experiences of misery of the COVID-19 pandemic together with large-scale social isolation and the lack of human lives, are creating.

“If such overbearing public emotions are not addressed through clear and decisive communication by authorities, citizen groups and social media stakeholders, there is potential for the emergence of issues such as breeding mistrust in the handling of the disease, and a belief in online falsehoods that could hinder the ongoing control of the disease.”

The research was revealed within the scientific journal JMIR Public Health & Surveillance in May.

A glimmer of hope and gratitude amidst anger

To determine tendencies within the expression of the 4 primary feelings – concern, anger, unhappiness, and pleasure – and look at the narratives underlying these feelings, Prof Lwin and her crew first collected 20,325,929 tweets in English containing the key phrases ‘Wuhan,’ ‘corona,’ ‘nCov,’ and ‘covid.’

COVID-19 Word Cloud

Visual illustration (phrase cloud) of the frequency of phrases derived from Twitter information. Credit: NTU Singapore

The tweets, collected from late January to early April on the Institute of High Performance Computing in Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) utilizing Twitter’s normal search utility interface program, got here from over 7 million distinctive customers in additional than 170 nations.

“Although the data looks at only public tweets surrounding the four selected keywords, the results are sufficient to start a conversation about possible issues arising from the pandemic at present,” mentioned Prof Lwin, whose collaborators additionally embody Tianjin University, University of Lugano, and University of Melbourne.

The underlying feelings of tweets have been then analyzed utilizing an algorithm developed by A*STAR, whose accuracy has been demonstrated in earlier research. Word clouds primarily based on the highest single phrases and two-word phrases have been generated for every of the 4 feelings.

Upon analyzing the outcomes, the crew discovered that phrases similar to ‘first case’ and ‘outbreak’ have been among the many most-used phrases in tweets from late January, indicating concern that was presumably associated to the rising coronavirus and the unknown nature of it, inflicting uncertainty about containment and unfold. 

Xenophobia was additionally mirrored initially of the pandemic, when the illness was predominantly contained in China and Asia, as indicated by phrases similar to ‘racist’ and ‘Chinese people.’

As the pandemic escalated, fears round shortages of COVID-19 diagnostic exams and medical provides emerged, as prompt by phrases similar to ‘test shortages’ and ‘uncounted.’ Anger then shifted to discourses across the isolation fatigue that may happen from social seclusion, indicated by phrases similar to “stay home” and several other swear phrases.

Signs of unhappiness surrounding the subjects of shedding family and friends members additionally began to floor, with phrases relating to ‘loved one’ and ‘passed away’ highlighting potential social considerations arising from private traumatic experiences of the pandemic.

But accompanying these detrimental feelings have been parallel escalating sentiments of pleasure relating to nationwide satisfaction, gratitude, and neighborhood spirit, the NTU-led crew discovered, with phrases similar to ‘thank,’ ‘good news,’ and ‘feel good.’

Tweets that have been collected and analyzed from early April to mid-June as an extension of the JMIR research additionally confirmed that these optimistic sentiments exceeded concern postings on social media.

Upcoming follow-up research led by Prof Lwin will dive into country-specific tendencies in public feelings. Preliminary findings present that in Singapore, there’s a reasonable stability of optimistic sentiments relating to resilience, civic satisfaction, and celebration of heroic acts and acts of kindness. This is in distinction to different nations the place robust detrimental feelings overwhelmingly function within the social media posts.


Reference: “Global Sentiments Surrounding the COVID-19 Pandemic on Twitter: Analysis of Twitter Trends” by May Oo Lwin, PhD; Jiahui Lu, PhD; Anita Sheldenkar, MSc; Peter Johannes Schulz, PhD; Wonsun Shin, PhD; Raj Gupta, PhD and Yinping Yang, PhD, May 2020,    , JMIR Public Health & Surveillance.
DOI: 10.2196/19447

This work is funded by A*STAR and the National Research Foundation Singapore beneath the COVID-19 Research Fund, administered by the Singapore Ministry of Health’s National Medical Research Council.

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