Data Discoveries



Covid-19 Emotion Tracking: How do we really feel?

Janine McBennett
Lucy Remitz

By Janine McBennett & Lucy Remitz

Data and Insight Analyst & Strategist

Date: 21 April, 2020

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“Covid-19”, “Coronavirus”, “the C-Word”…it’s really all any of us can talk and think about for the foreseeable future and never has there been a hotter topic of discussion (for our Zoom calls). But while we know that all of us are in this together, going through the motions, balancing working from home with minding kids, and squeezing in our home workouts around baking banana bread, how do we really FEEL throughout all of this, and what are we thinking? 

Following on from the first edition of our feature on ‘Measuring the Mood of the Nation’, our Data and Insights team has been continuing to monitor the conversations of the nation using our self-trained AI technology on our listening platform, in order to track shifts in mood and decipher triggers for certain feelings and emotions, allowing us to really deep dive into the national psyche.

Knowing how we are currently feeling during this pandemic is invaluable. But in order to really get under the skin of this ongoing shift in mood, we have begun layering these current changes in emotions with an overall sense of how the nation has been feeling pre and during Covid-19 – not just in relation to the pandemic, but in general, everyday conversations. This allows us to really get a sense of the effect that this pandemic has on our mood and emotions. 

3 Key Takeouts into how we are currently feeling:

In our ongoing tracking of the nation’s emotions, we have unearthed three key insights into how we are currently feeling as a nation as the pandemic progresses:

  • We are feeling a lack of control and power, which is ultimately driving us to feel frustrated at the situation. This lack of control and power is being felt as a result of not knowing when this crisis will end, not being able to help those closest to us who may be vulnerable or sick, and the feeling of having to entirely rely on the media and our government for information which we feel is not entirely truthful.
  • We are continuing to feel proud and optimistic, and we are using social media to put our best positive foot forward. Comparing digital conversations pre and during the pandemic, online conversations are currently at their most optimistic over the year-long period. We are taking to digital platforms to unite as a nation, show gratitude, and remind each other that we are “all in this together”.
  • We remain fearful of the effects of Covid-19 on society, however, the pandemic is meaning that we are worrying less about the trivial things in life, and learning to appreciate “the small wins”.

How are we currently feeling as a nation amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic? (March – April daily tracker)

PRIDE & OPTIMISM

Pride and Optimism continue to be the strongest emotions that we are feeling as a nation as we make our way through another few weeks of strict national lockdown. While the situation is remaining stagnant, we are making efforts to appreciate positive work that has been carried out by people, charities, and brands that are coming together to make a positive impact, while also taking the time to relish the small things that bring us pleasure. We are seeing more people connecting with the arts – be it through song writing, poetry, journaling, and baking, and people taking the time to step back and appreciate nature, posting positively about these ‘small pleasures” and “small victories” online.

“Social media social distance” is becoming a trend for some, as we take to social to surround ourselves in some positive news and affirmations, breaking away and distancing ourselves from the negative headlines in the media. In this sense, social media is feeling like a positive escape for many.

Taking a deeper look at pride, we see that this emotion was particularly high at 9pm on April 11th, when we took to social to show our appreciation and solidarity for the frontline and healthcare workers and honour those who have lost their lives to the illness, using the hashtag #ShineALight. We felt a sense of unity and positivity, and feelings of ‘Anger and Frustration’ and ‘Fear’ were the lowest they have been for the entirety of April during this time. This really highlights the power of a positive movement uniting us as a nation and bringing us comfort and hope during all of the turmoil. 

ANGER & FRUSTRATION

There has been a notable shift in  feelings of anger and frustration in recent days. For the most part, as we also saw during March, feelings of strong anger and frustration continue to be fleeting. However, these negative emotions are being felt at a much closer range to those feelings of positivity, particularly as we move towards mid-April.

Understandably, a large portion of this frustration is focused on the feeling of being ‘fed up’ and grieving for the lives we once had, as the lockdown progresses with no clear end in sight. Aligned with this frustration is a feeling of helplessness that we cannot protect and help those we love who may be vulnerable, or who are currently fighting the virus. Many are also asking themselves and the nation, “Could we do more?”, indicating again that we feel powerless in the situation.

Anger continues to be felt and expressed towards those who are still not complying with the correct social distancing measures. Many users are taking to social to ‘shame’ those who are still “meeting up with friends”, while for many of the rest of us, we have been unable to see sick loved ones.

For some, we are also feeling some resentment and frustration that Covid-19 has taken on ‘scare and control’ tactics. People are questioning whether ‘fear’ is being used unnecessarily to scare us into believing false claims about the virus. Some are feeling extremely irritated that this scaremongering has lead us to ‘lose our common sense’ – believing everything we are hearing from others without questioning it. On a similar note, there is also some frustration over the feeling that the truth is being suppressed – we have no control over the information we are receiving and so we are forced to believe what the news and the government are telling us. 

FEAR

Feelings of fear continue to dissipate as the weeks progress. While we understandably saw relatively consistent levels of fear continue throughout March as the virus took its toll on the country and we entered the strict national lockdown, now that we move through April, we are seeing lower levels of fear.

Some of the fear and concerns that we are currently feeling are centred on those with disabilities in Ireland and those who are vulnerable to the virus in nursing homes. There was also some evident fear during the bank holiday weekend, with general concerns and worry that people may become ‘complacent’ regarding the lockdown measures as a result of the nice weather. Most recently, there has also been a strong sense of anxiety and worry amongst Leaving Cert students about the delay in their exams, and the effect of this on their mental health. In addition, some users working on the frontline have expressed anxiety over the fact that they can’t switch off from work when they are not there, and are constantly thinking about their next work shift.

What is interesting to note, is that as a result of Covid-19, while worry and fear over the virus is apparent, our overall feelings of fear and worry outside of this virus have lowered somewhat, as users are expressing that they are worrying less about the little things in life due to the fact that “we are all in the same boat” with Covid-19. Ultimately, this virus has put the smaller, every day worries into perspective for many.

BENCHMARKING THE FEELINGS OF THE NATION PRE AND DURING PANDEMIC

So what happens when we sense-check how the nation has been feeling overall, pre and during the pandemic, not just specific to Covid-19 conversations…

Say what? A pandemic resulting in a more optimistic mood? As we can see from the graph, feelings of anger and frustration have lowered since we entered this pandemic, being pushed down by overwhelmingly higher feelings of optimism and pride. Interestingly, what this is really telling us is that during a crisis, what unites us is our ambition to remain positive online, and express gratitude and praise for all the hard work that is being carried out for the good of everyone in the country. The pandemic is ultimately leading us to be a more appreciative nation, and social and digital platforms are currently a predominantly positive space to be for a brand that aims to use its voice to lend a helping hand.

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