As America took to Twitter in an attempt to socially navigate the global pandemic, we were there too: watching COVID-19 conversations and taking notes. We combined emotion analysis (including emojilytics) with geosocial and COVID-19 case data to discover how the changing pandemic affected our reactions and influenced the cultural conversation. Scroll down to see how emojis communicate mood shifts over time from the beginning of the pandemic.
From wondering whether there would be a global outbreak to conspiracy theories, to debates over protective measures, people in the U.S. were still trying to figure out how to react, what to believe, and working hard to separate fact from fiction. Most conversation centered around news updates of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, as well as the Chinese government's response. Mentions also call for aid and solidarity efforts.
As of Feb 23, there were only 15 reported cases in the US, but the conversation had spread all over. We witnessed a fluctuation in different emotions across the country. Fear dominated at 4.2x the rate of normal expression, while positive emotions like love and joy were only 20% of normal levels.
As news of the coronavirus hitting other parts of the world spread, the majority expressed that the U.S. government wasn't doing enough, many were upset about disrupted life plans, and others were mad that everyone else was overreacting.
As more COVID-19 cases reached our shores the nation was filled with anger. We reacted to our government's response, the healthcare system, and the availability of PPE. We were also pissed at the virus itself.
Though the Twittersphere never stops LOLing, the coronavirus conversation hit its least funny point, with laughter expressed 80% less than usual.
But thanks in part to the boom in popularity of TikTok, some of us still found clever ways to laugh, and some even took their last chances at a little action before the lockdown.
By March 8th, with more states going into lockdown, we reacted to losing jobs, closing businesses, and life put on pause. There were 1500 reported infected, but COVID had affected us all.
As the death toll rose, anger and fear turned into love and concern for others, with many social users feeling the need to share positivity with the world.
Despite deaths jumping to over 700 across the US, we responded to COVID by sharing positivity. We wished for the safety of others, supported charitable causes, and expressed gratitude to the essential workers and healthcare providers guiding us through the pandemic.
In a time of social distancing, 2020 has seen us turn to social media and other technology to celebrate together.
While expressions of positivity were becoming the dominant emotion across the country, a look at different cities tells a more nuanced story. The most impacted cities reacted 5% angrier and 6% sadder, while the least impacted expressed 8% more love and gratitude.
The “new normal” still isn’t quite back to normal. Through it all, those of us in the most impacted states have been a little more heartbroken, and us in the least impacted were a little angrier. And as the situation evolves, we continue to have a lot to think about.
As we adapted to the new normal in the US, the online COVID conversation had already dropped to just 1/4 of it's peak levels just weeks prior, now with only 5.5M original tweets in the month of May.
As cases resurged, the debates continued. While a passionate few spoke out against wearing masks and advocated for reopening, the anti-maskers lost the debate by a landslide on Twitter.
Conversation increased along with new cases in new areas, with total conversations per day doubling from Jun 7 to Jun 30. This time we were less afraid; more angry and sad. Sadness hit its highest intensity so far, and anger was at its highest since before lockdown, especially in new areas now hit the hardest.
Emojis are the language of the internet. The way we use them for self-expression has never been more prevalent than during this time. As the situation unfolds, our emojions will continue to tell the story.
As the crisis continues to unfold, so will our emotions. We continue to share our feels online, now more than ever in a time of virtual human connection.