Americans remaining remarkably positive during coronavirus outbreak, Twitter study shows

AUSTIN — There’s plenty to be worried about as the coronavirus outbreak lingers on, and there’s no question that millions of Americans are mired in a range of mentally-draining emotions from fear to anger to sadness. Yet, the atmosphere on Twitter paints a different picture for the most part, showing that optimism can be just as contagious as COVID-19 itself. As a new study shows, Americans have been tweeting more upbeat messages and maintaining a positive outlook.

Researchers commissioned by analyzed tweets posted between Feb. 20 and March 20 to see how Americans are using the platform in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The study pulled tweets that mentioned either “coronavirus” or “COVID-19.” From this large population of results, researchers randomly selected 500 tweets per hour and ended up with 237,627 tweets for their analysis. Then they analyzed tweets for sentiment — if comments were positive, negative or neutral — and context, or what else people were talking about in their tweets.

The analyses revealed some interesting findings: 60% of the coronavirus-related tweets, overall, relayed what was considered a positive message. Only 18% were negative, and the remaining 22% were neutral.

Many of the upbeat tweets have actually been about the stock market. Even though the market has been an extreme rollercoaster ride, only one-third of tweets about stocks were negative, while 43% were positive.

“I know everything feels very uncertain right now, and that is unsettling,” says financial adviser Sara Seely in a statement to LawnStarter. “The best thing you can do is wait for things to calm down in the markets. That is generally against our nature, or at least for most of us, to not start doing something, but we risk more trying to time this irrational market than we have to gain.”

On the same note, half of the tweets about telecommuting have expressed positive sentiments. It seems working from home hasn’t been as big of drag or as difficult as workers may have anticipated. Just 29% of posts about working remotely were negative.

Thankfully, Americans are not panic-tweeting about the lack of toilet paper and cleaning products. Less than 2% of tweets mention at least one of the essential goods that have been disappearing from shelves, including toilet paper (just 0.74% of tweets!), bleach, diapers, rubbing alcohol, paper towels or hand sanitizer.

And if you thought that people were tweeting about booze as much as they’ve been consuming it, it seems you’d be wrong. Just 13% of the tweets mention beer, liquor or wine. That said, people from Maine were most likely to write about turning to booze to get through these trying times. An analysis of tweets by state shows that one in five people from the Pine Tree State posted about their need for spirits. Louisiana sat at the opposite end of the spectrum, with just 8% of coronavirus posts mentioning alcohol.

Perhaps most surprisingly, few of the coronavirus related tweets targeted politics. Just 1.7% of the analyzed tweets also included at least one of the following words: Trump, McConnell, Republican, GOP, Republicans, Biden, Pelosi, Dem, Democrat, Democrats, politics and politicians.

Finally, the researchers examined how much people were talking about guns on Twitter. Gun sales have surged since the pandemic started in response to police forces cutting back, but Americans haven’t been talking about this too much on the social media platform. Less than a quarter of a percent of coronavirus tweets mentioned guns.

As  continue to keep a positive outlook on Twitter and other social media platforms until the end of the shutdown. If you’re tempted to watch the news around the clock to catch up on the latest stories, experts suggest limiting your intake.

“We are being inundated with news about all aspects of the pandemic 24/7. Some of this is very important, obviously, and we need to keep ourselves informed, especially at the local level, so that we know the actions we need to take,” says Douglas Moll, a psychologist in Cincinnati and a medical adviser for health information website eMediHealth. “But being glued to CNN all day is probably only going to increase your anxiety level. You really have to strike a balance between being adequately informed and up to date versus being overwhelmed when it comes to the news.”