Australians polarised about 'return to normal' social media analysis shows

Burnet Institute

25 October, 2022

Analysis of social media posts in October 2022 has revealed Australian users are polarised in their views about a ‘return to normal’ and the role of government. They also expressed concern about the long-term implications of COVID – including Long COVID.

The data also shows young people, particularly, have concerns not only about the health implications of COVID but its impact on their lifestyles and working lives.

The TIGER C19 project, run collaboratively between Burnet Institute and the University of Melbourne has combined big data analytics of selected keywords and themes from Reddit and Twitter since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

TIGER C19 Co-Lead Investigator, Professor Robert Power and his team analysed more than 13,000 Twitter and Reddit posts from early October 2022, which contained six separate keywords relating to current COVID-19-related issues – fear, future, government, normal, worry, and Long COVID.

“What is apparent is that the notion of normalisation has polarised people. Some people welcome it as a return to the ‘normality’ of pre-COVID, while others are thinking that the new normal is actually having to live with COVID, which is quite different – so the notion of normality has shifted,” Professor Power said.

“There was a lot of debate also around the shift from government responsibility to personal responsibility.

“On one level, some people readily accept the message that ‘now it’s all down to you’, but others are saying, ‘well, actually, having the government supporting us was really important’ and now the government has abnegated responsibility.

“With no mandate now on the wearing of masks, some people are taking on that responsibility themselves. Some have reported being ridiculed for it, even stigmatised as if they’re somehow making a statement, when all they’re trying to do is take responsibility for their own health and the community’s health.”

Professor Power said there was very active debate around Long COVID because of personal experiences and the experiences of friends and colleagues with symptoms.

“There’s real worry about the long-term effects of repeated infections,” Professor Power said. “’What are they? We don’t know that yet’, are often reported concerns.”

“And it’s not just health implications, but implications for lifestyles and economically in terms of the impact on people’s working lives.

“A lot of people, especially the young, noted broader global concerns and stresses, such as wars and the prospect of an economic downturn, with COVID being a layer on top of all that.

“So there’s there was an interesting debate that we picked up around young people’s general concern about what’s happening in our world. COVID is just like another dimension to it, so it’s not seen in isolation.”

On the other hand, Professor Power noted that there was a positive response to the announcement in September of a Federal Parliamentary Inquiry into long COVID and repeated COVID infections.

Read the latest TIGER C19 report.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Robert Power AM

Project Consultant, Fleming Fund Program Director




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