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Recognizing the widespread use of Twitter as a mainstream news source for the American public, UCI researchers sought to investigate how tweets about masks expressed COVID-19 risk perceptions in the first five months of the pandemic.

Their analysis described the history of American society’s reaction to COVID-19 risk over time, showing that risk perceptions were expressed in a much more expanded range than objective rationale risk. Although a smaller proportion of mask tweets debated COVID-19 transmission routes and mask effectiveness, controindicazioni al levitra the largest proportion of mask tweets discussed the mask-related behavior of others. This finding attests to the social experiences that contribute to constructions of COVID-19 risk which, in turn, may motivate behavior.

Twitter provided the research team with a glimpse into how users made sense of risk during the pandemic. Users documented their experiences by including hyperlinks, hashtags, mentions often at political figures, videos, images and sharing these with their networks in real time, both amplifying and attenuating COVID-19 risk perceptions.

Study results revealed that users ascribed many meanings to mask wearing and at many levels, from relational aspects (e.g., behavior of others in the workplace) to government guidelines and policies. These findings suggest that public health messaging focusing only on increasing severity and threat will fall short of the desired response. Rather, a public health messaging approach that emphasizes social or group identity, or an approach that shifts mask messaging away from individual responsibility to emphasize workplace policy may have better success of acceptance given the mixed messaging occurring at the individual level.

Led by Suellen Hopfer, PhD, corresponding author and assistant professor of health, society, and behavior at the UCI Program in Public Health, the study illustrates the important role social media plays in contextualizing real-time reactions to public health crises. It also helps explain the ways in which social media functions to amplify and attenuate risk. Findings are published in PLOS One.

The research team analyzed the content of more than 7,000 tweets about mask-wearing that reflected nearly 6,300 unique users from January to July 2020, a time when understanding about the pandemic-risk was still evolving and when only nonpharmaceutical interventions like mask wearing were available to mitigate risk. In addition to observing an overall increase in tweets about mask-wearing during the five-month period, they discovered six ways in which COVID-19 risk perception was expressed by the public:

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