The last few months have seen story after story about COVID-19. For most of 2020, the death count and horror stories have infected the newsfeeds, and some version of fear has gathered in the emotional space of almost every individual. The public sphere is crawling with negativity. This, of course, maybe warranted, considering the Global Pandemic and the inconvenient but necessary safety measures that come with it.
However, amongst this gloom, there is some evidence of hope and positivity. In a time where the online community is by far the most accessible and active community, it seems global online society has started to display a certain ‘togetherness’ stemming from the shared experience that is COVID-19.
An example of this emerging positivity is the #WhenThisIsAllOver on Twitter. The Hashtag started out in late March, and originally presented as a “challenge” where people post a list of 5 things they’re going to do after the pandemic.
Twitter users also used the hashtag to post light-hearted funny one-liners. Many of these are interesting as they reflect an awareness that society will change permanently in certain ways as a result of Coronavirus.
There are also more serious tweets under the hashtag which call for significant societal changes to be made as systematic and social issues come to light over the course of the crisis.
Hashtagify was used to gather data on #WhenThisIsAllOver. Over the twelve days, 2.5k tweets were made under the hashtag, along with 1.7k retweets. People were clearly engaging with the topic.
Hashtagify identified a fairly high level of positive sentiment within the tweets, though not as positive as one might have expected. Although, this makes sense taking into account some of the more ‘serious’ toned content under the hashtag and the software’s inability to detect sarcasm/humour.
The more light-hearted tweets that expressed a longing to travel, or hug a family member, or live a more active life after the pandemic has died out came through with more positive sentiment. The posts that called for change in government procedures, or talked about healthcare, climate change or social rights probably lowered positive sentiment based on their wording.
It is arguable, however, that the simple fact that these conversations are being had is a positive story in itself. Tough times, at least historically, seem to exasperate leadership and societal issues and in result inspire vital change. In a time where we are all physically isolated, this hashtag is only one representation of the ways in which we have the opportunity to be closer and more united than ever.
Interestingly, the day-to-day sentiment levels started out quite negative, with 3.35% of tweets made on April 9th displaying positive sentiment, and 84.95% the negative.
Over the few following days, the tweets became overwhelmingly positive, with 72.97% positivity in tweets made on April 11th, rising steadily to 85.71% on April 15th.
However, on the last three days of recorded data, the 16th, 17th and 18th, positive sentiment appeared to drop and by the 18th had almost evened out with a 50.44% positive and 42.75% negative.
This pattern could be random, or it could be a small reflection of the new emotional cycle that isolated individuals now find themselves in. Robert Weiss, Ph.D., MSW, published an article in March, looking at the emotional response to the pandemic and isolation as aligned with the 7 stages of grief. People’s use of social media in this time is a fairly clear track of how society is feeling as this goes on. The tweets under this hashtag, on some level, seem to document all 7 stages of grief, from shock, denial, bargaining, anger, guilt and depression to (most notably) acceptance & hope.
The other hashtags that were commonly used on #whenthisisallover posts also bring the public’s positive hope to light, with;
- 96.9% of posts also using #WhenCoronavirusIsOver
- 30.9% using #WeWillTravelAgain
- 93.2% using #DailyPhoto
- 29.6% using #GoodVibes
- 19.89% using #StayAtHome
On the 21st of April, when I went online to gather statistics on the hashtag at hand, I found my story ambushed by fans of this guy;
As it turns out, on the 21’st, Niall Horan (yes, Niall Horan of One Direction) took to his instagram live-feed, asking fans to post lyrics helping him write a song about quarantine. Incidentally, he wanted to call the song When This Is All Over.
The premise is the same, people tweet about how they’re feeling in this time, and their hopes for when its over.
However the general format of the new tweets made it difficult to gather information on sentiment using programs such as hashtagify.
So Data scraper was used to pull keywords from 500 recent tweets under #WhenThisIsAllOver, to see how Niall’s Livestream had affected the popularity of the hashtag.
35.5% of tweets mentioned ‘Niall’, and 15.1% mentioned the word ‘song’ in it’s text. interestingly, though, 16.3% mentioned ‘hope’.
The vast majority of the new tweets include a small caption that mentions the song and tags Niall Horan and some attached images of lyrics written out or typed up. It’s hard to type out lyrics with the character limit Twitter imposes. However the images can’t be ran through a program and analysed for sentiment as easily as text-posts can be.
Nevertheless, the development doesn’t seem to hinder the positive message of the hashtag. If anything, it shows the influence that public figures can have on the public, and how they can inspire and encourage people to express themselves creatively.
I think we can all agree that Niall Horan helped us through this quarantine time with his music, his lives, his chats and his laughs and I’ll be forever grateful for him.— iris ♡ (@njhnewyork) May 5, 2020
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