Warning, warning: We are now in the ANGER phase of the pandemic.
Researchers from Singapore, China, Australia, and Switzerland analyzed 20.3 million Twitter posts from seven million users in 170 countries, all with keywords like “Wuhan” and “corona.” They discovered sky-high levels of fear that reigned for the outbreak’s first weeks, dwarfing other emotions, as people were fearful of the virus and shortages of testing and masks. This gave way to anger—first xenophobia, and then outrage around isolation and stay-at-home ordinances, the expression of which frequently involved colorful cursing.
Then a steady-but-smaller surge of sadness swung into play and has remained since, as people expressed grief over losses. At the same time, joyful posts expressing gratitude and good health emerged, frequently involving words like “good news” or “feel good” and “thanks.” By April—when much of the East was emerging from lockdown—the joyful tweets overtook both the fearful and angry tweets.
This volatility explains why you feel so emotionally parched. These are “rapid evolutions within just the span of a few weeks,” write the researchers, whose findings were published in JMIR Public Health and Surveillance. The authors call for public health interventions to address the public distress.
It also explains why Twitter is a duck and cover drill at the moment in the U.S., full of hypersensitivity and rage. While much of the world population has returned to some semblance of normal life, Americans are locked in the earlier phase of the pandemic where anger and some fear prevailed.