The Covid-19 pandemic first entered the international news cycle with mixed levels of concern. How did people across the globe react to first encounters with this virus? For many it was like seeing for the first time the spewing ash of a volcano, or the receding tides of a tsunami. Many reacted with disbelief, not knowing the proper course of action for themselves or for their community. This study explores the topics of discussion and reactions to the pandemic through the lens of quote-tweets--from the initial confusion and disbelief to the eventual politicization, economic closures, and reopening events. Quote-tweets are reactions to other tweets. This makes them idea to study opinions on various topics. If a tweet covers something interesting, often a quote-tweet will follow, displaying a reaction message tacked under the original message. This generates discussion about the topic in the original tweet. We gathered tweets from five of the first months of the pandemic and found several trends. Early on, collected quote-tweets were much more likely to discuss health-related topics such as symptoms, demographic information, or death. Conspiracy theories and disinformation also abounded during this time. Quote-tweet reactions were often short, simple, and expressing disbelief. Quote-tweets made up between 30 and 40 percent of all tweets streamed from twitter using search terms of Coronavirus and Covid-19. Later in our collected data, quote-tweets discussing the economy in relation to Covid-19 began to appear. They also grew more critical and political, often directing criticisms toward local or foreign government officials. Quote-tweet reactions followed suit and more often expressed criticisms and opinions of their own. Both agreement and disagreement increased over time. Although disasters often generate political debate, online discussion about the Covid-19 pandemic shifted dramatically over the course of this study. The trends of topics and opinions that make up these online discussions via quote-tweets and original tweets can inform health and emergency officials on trends to be found in pandemics and disasters to come.
College and Department
Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Bean, David Hardy, "Understanding Quote-Tweet Usage During the COVID-19 Pandemic" (2021). Theses and Dissertations. 9129.
twitter, disaster, covid-19, response