Workshop Proceedings of the 16th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended daily life around the globe, posing a threat to public health. Intuitively, we expect that surging cases and deaths would lead to fear, distress and other negative emotions. However, using state-of-the-art methods to measure sentiment, emotions, and moral concerns in social media messages posted in the early stage of the pandemic, we see a counter-intuitive rise in positive affect. We hypothesize that the increase of positivity is associated with a decrease of uncertainty and emotion regulation. Finally, we identify a partisan divide in moral and emotional reactions that emerged after the first US death. Overall, these results show how collective emotional states have changed since the pandemic began, and how social media can provide a useful tool to better understand, and even regulate, diverse patterns underlying human affect.