Social Media Messages Related to COVID-19: A Content Analysis
6 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2020 Last revised: 26 Mar 2020
Date Written: March 25, 2020
This is a preliminary report of our ongoing work on social media messages related to the present COVID-19 pandemic. When new diseases strike human societies, limited knowledge regarding disease-causing agents or vectors or modes of transmission become a huge limitation. What is happening with regard to Corona virus disease 2019 or COVID-19 is almost similar. The methodology followed in this study is an exploratory content analysis of social media messages through the most popular application i.e. WhatsApp. All authors went through the various messages received in their WhatsApp as individual messages or through groups they are part of in the last two weeks. This preliminary report was prepared based on the patterns that were observed regarding the messages. This quick analysis based on messages collected from a sample of people was required given the nature of such messages and the types of influence they could create on the society. Our analysis shows that the most of the messages fall into the category of panic generating ones which are liberally circulated. These are followed by humorous ones, which make fun of people, countries and even the patients, popularly known as social media trolls. A large number cross-posted messages fall into these two categories. Among the popular forwards, comparative picture of country profiles of patients are presented. A number of forwards try awareness generation using false information received from unknown sources. Unfortunately, updates on government activities are not popular especially helpline numbers etc. and least forwarded although these are forwarded by professional groups. Partly correct or even incorrect ‘medical’ messages are also being circulated. We conclude that It is extremely important to control the negative role of the social media which enhance fear and panic. In situations like pandemics, governments should identify the sources and the focal point/s for disseminating the latest information from the health department.
Keywords: Social media, COVID, Messages
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