Global tweets reveal decline in negativity towards Covid pandemic


New York, Sep 28 (IANS): The number of negative posts about Covid-19 is declining, especially in countries which rolled out extensive vaccination programmes, according to a study.

Scientists from Vanderbilt University in the US and the Federal Technological University of Parana in Brazil focused on 120 million English-language posts between March 1, 2020 and June 2021.

The findings published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology showed that users' perception of the Covid-19 pandemic became less negative as it progressed.

The team analysed dozens of negative words -- including 'anxiety', 'idiot', 'rage' and 'horrible' and counted the number of negative words.

"We showed that the negative perception skyrocketed in April 2020 and decreased steadily since then," said Alexander Maier, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Vanderbilt.

"As time progressed over the past year, we found that fewer and fewer negative emotional words were used in tweets mentioning the pandemic," he added.

The team also discovered the influence of former US President Donald Trump on Twitter's conversation around Covid-19.

"We observe that the negative perception in tweets shows spikes from October 2 to 6 2020, probably related to the news released on October 2 that (Trump) tested positive for Covid-19. After this event, the negative perception in tweets started dropping steadily," Maier said.

Furthermore, the increase of Covid-19 deaths in the US, after November 2020, coincided with a pronounced decrease in negative perception -- a paradox.

Attempting to understand this paradox, the team analysed the vaccination statistics of the US, the UK, and Canada, revealing a strong relation between dropping negative perception of the pandemic on Twitter and increased vaccination in those countries.

A previous study into Twitter sentiment revealed that out of 4 million tweets written in English, most tweets came from the US (42.5 per cent), India (10.8 per cent), Canada (5.9 per cent), and the UK (5.9 per cent).

"The takeaway message from this paper is as follows: the people's negativity has dropped," they wrote. "In particular, people's negativity declined almost linearly as the vaccination rose exponentially, suggesting slow emotional adaptation to a rapidly evolving situation. For this reason, it seems reasonable to affirm that the vaccination campaign has played a crucial role in decreasing people's negativity."

However, there is no "definitive answer" on whether the decline in negative perception on Twitter is related to the company taking action against Covid misinformation/disinformation, Maier said.

 

  

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