Apr 25, 2020 - Technology

How social media feels about the coronavirus

Map of emotions on social media in the U.S. and UK on April 24. Credit: Expert System and Sociometrica, April 24, 2020

An Italian-based artificial intelligence company is regularly analyzing social media posts about the coronavirus for their emotional content.

Why it matters: Classifying tens of thousands of posts by their emotional tone provides a snapshot of how people feel about the pandemic. Spoiler alert: not great!

How it works: Expert System specializes in semantics and natural language reading, a branch of AI involving computer systems that attempt to make sense of written language.

  • In doing so, a computer can rapidly analyze vast amounts of the written word — like, for example, a day's worth of social media posts about the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the past few weeks, Expert System has been collecting English language social media posts each day that feature frequently used hashtags like #coronalockdown and #covid19. Its AI can extract the emotional content of those posts, which is then analyzed and interpreted by Sociometrica.

  • On April 24, "fear" had become the single most widespread emotion, displacing "sadness."

But, but, but: Such negative feelings have been declining over the past 10 days, from 62.4% to 45.5%. At the same time, neutral and positive feelings are on the rise, with particular growth around posts showing "hope."

  • Also increasing in intensity is "health fanaticism," which Expert System defines as "a feeling of fear and anxiety around certain aspects of health and an emphasis on defending the health of one’s own body."

The bottom line: A natural language AI can tell you what you probably already know: the pandemic is terrible, but if you squint hard enough, there's light at the end of the tunnel.

Go deeper: Isolation can be bad for mental health

Go deeper

Census Bureau reports spike in signs of anxiety and depression since coronavirus

A food bank distribution line in Brooklyn, New York. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Americans are experiencing an increase in anxiety and depression amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Census Bureau survey cited by the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The findings indicate a significant uptick in clinical anxiety and depression since the onset of the virus. Despite communities and economies reopening, the COVID-19 outbreak is far from over.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 p.m. ET: 5,682,389 — Total deaths: 354,944 — Total recoveries — 2,337,385Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 p.m. ET: 1,697,459 — Total deaths: 100,276 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. Public health: Fauci says data is "really quite evident" against hydroxychloroquine — Nearly half of Americans say someone in their household has delayed medical care.
  4. States: California hospitals strained by patients in MexicoTexas Supreme Court blocks mail-in expansion to state voters.
  5. Business: MGM plans to reopen major Las Vegas resorts in June — African American business owners have seen less relief from PPP, Goldman Sachs says.
  6. Tech: AI will help in the pandemic — but it might not be in time for this one.
  7. 1 🎶 thing: Local music venues get rocked by coronavirus.
  8. 🎧 Podcast: Trump vs. Twitter ... vs. Trump.
  9. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 25 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Top Senate Democrat says State Dept. is working on new Saudi arms deal

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefs reporters on May 20. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/pool/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) wrote in a CNN op-ed on Wednesday that he learned that the State Department is currently working to sell thousands of additional precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia.

Why it matters: Democrats say that Steve Linick, the State Department inspector general who was ousted on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's recommendation, was investigating the administration's previous effort to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval.