DOI: 10.36190/2020.15

Published: 2020-06-05
Examining the Impact of Social Distance on the Reaction to a Tragedy. A Case Study on Sulli's Death
Chen Ling, Gianluca Stringhini

In this paper, we aim to gain a better understanding of how social media discussion unfolds in reaction to a tragedy, by focusing on how the social distance between users and the victim impacts them. We leverage tweets regarding the reaction to the death of 25-year old Korean pop star Sulli, who experienced cyber-bullying, depression, and moral coercion by a patriarchal society. We collect 71,588 tweets covering 73 days, characterizing users based on their retweet behavior, and analyzing how they distribute information. We evaluate the role of official accounts and influential regular accounts in driving the discussion on this tragedy on Twitter and propose a novel multi-language sentiment analysis (English, Korean, Thai) of such discussion based on look-up tables. We then separate users based on their social distance to the victim, based on cultural background (i.e., whether the users come from an East Asian culture) and interest (i.e., whether the accounts are mainly posting about Korean Pop). Our findings demonstrate that the in-group (i.e., those closer to the tragedy) shows a longer attention period and more frequent in-group interactions compared to the out-group. We notice that the K-pop community is more efficient in spreading information about the tragedy. Our findings describe the information dissemination process after a tragedy and provide insight into potential intervention measures in preventing irrational sensation after a tragedy.