MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) — Researchers at the Social Media Insights Lab at the University of South Carolina are using social media to analyze how people react and feel about COVID-19.

The team is located within the School of Journalism and Mass Communications and has been focusing on specific research about coronavirus since early March.

The team’s manager and lead analyst, Kaitlyn Park said they use Crimson Hexagon software to trace and interpret social media data related to COVID-19.

“But really what we’re doing is called social media listening and I like to call that putting your fingertip to the pulse of what people are really saying and how they react and how they feel on social media about certain topics,” said Park.

Park said their team has been analyzing social media conversations since the start of the pandemic.

“When we first started looking at this, South Carolinians were not really that concerned,” said Park. “But what we’ve seen more recently is South Carolinians are more likely to share messages of positivity despite the uncertain time that we live in,” added Park.

By using the Crimson Hexagon software, they’re able to track how many people are tweeting, sharing, and posting about coronavirus.

“We were actually able to see the conversation increase but also just how much seriously people were taking it,” said Park.

They can determine that by tracking emotions within the conversations as well.

“The tool actually uses artificial intelligence to give us an assessment of positive, negative, or neutral but also emotions that people are expressing. Fear, joy, disgust, so we’re able to measure that as well and do it in a way that’s very fast and effective,” said Park.

Park added, “There are so many things that we can learn about human behavior from this, from analyzing social media and the context of the global pandemic.”

Park said they were able to use that information to foresee a possible COVID-19 outbreak in Myrtle Beach around the July 4th holiday. The team was able to look at the amount of people talking about it on social media and see who said they were participating in the festivities.

“We put that information out before July 4th yanno people are not really socially distancing so you can be aware that it’s something people are talking about and you can expect crowds,” said Park.

Park said she sees this research being used even after the pandemic is over.

“It’s not predictive technology but it does help us better understand people,” said Park.

For more information on the University’s Social Media Insights Lab, visit this link to see their recent reports.