Post by Jaume Palmer Real. Formatted by Peter Edsberg Møllgaard. Published: August 26, 2020.

In December 2019, a novel coronavirus strain (SARS-CoV-2) emerged in the city of Wuhan, China. In just a few months, this virus has taken over the world forcing countries all over to shut down, limit travel and lock down cities to avoid a worse spread. This is an unprecedented scenario, so it is obvious that people want to be informed: citizens and media alike have focused all their attention to cover the pandemic. However, this special attention can have side-effects. Many of us have been in mental lockdown (as well as physical) since the situation blew up. Not only the news but our social media, and main sources of entertainment have been taken over by the virus. With this visualization I wanted to check how this happened, if it happened at all.

Everybody that has navigated Reddit will know that it is a diverse place. This diveristy provides a reliable snapshot of the main topics of interest during a certain period. Given its community-based structure, it has been possible to analyze the importance of such communities in the trending daily posts. In order to keep things simple, I have aggregated communities according to the following categories:

  • Entertainment: contains mainly posts discussing movies, sports, television, gaming
  • Educational: content that discusses novelties in any fields of science, social sciences and technology
  • News/Politics: news from main wordwide news outlets
  • Other: un-classificable content (which is a lot)

Shortly after the pandemic became real, a community was born dedicated specifically to track the virus and the relevant news around it. This has its own category: Coronavirus. Just as it happened with the actual virus, it started taking over the space that before was full with other content:

As the virus kept spreading, it is easy to see and understand how the community dedicated specifically to discuss news around COVID-19 started to take a significant portion of our attention.

However, this is just a single community.

At the same time that r/coronavirus was growing, other communities from the other categories were starting to discuss how the virus was affecting them: events were being cancelled, laboratories were pushing forward investigation, countries were applying new policies…

By doing a quick text analysis on the post titles in some of these major Reddit communities, it is possible to have a better picture of the virus presence in the media during the previous timeline.

Interesting seeing where the peaks are.

The virus has been quite relevant in the international news since the first case was confirmed in Europe, whereas this presence is less important in r/news, which is more US-centered community.

The virus hit hard r/politics right after it was officially declared a pandemic by WHO. It makes sense that, entertainment communities spiked at the same time; as it is easy to understand that big-event organizers are dependent on the policy-makers.

We can go even deeper...

… by looking at the exact posts narrating the events.

This is how 100 randomly selected posts from r/worldnews looked day after day, starting 01/01/2020. It is quite unsettling to see the first news appear by early January talking about a mysterious pneumonia.