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Twitter is Showing That People Are Anxious and Depressed

On May 31, the most commonly used words on English language Twitter included “terrorist,” “violence” and “racist.” This was two days after George Floyd was killed, and the start of the protests that would last all summer.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Hedonometer’s sadness readings have set multiple records. This year, “there was a full month — and we never see this — there was a full month of days that the Hedonometer was reading sadder than the Boston Marathon day,” Dr. Danforth said. “Our collective attention is very ephemeral. So it was really remarkable then that the instrument, for the first time, showed this sustained, depressed mood, and then it got even worse, when the protests started.”

James Pennebaker, an intellectual founder of online language analysis and a social psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, became interested in what our choice of words reveals about ourselves — our moods, our characters — exactly at the moment when the internet was first supplying such an enormous stockpile of text to draw from and consider.

“These digital traces are markers that we’re not aware of, but they leave marks that tell us the degree to which you are avoiding things, the degree to which you are connected to people,” said Dr. Pennebaker, the author of “The Secret Life of Pronouns,” among other books. “They are telling us how you are paying attention to the world.”

But, Dr. Pennebaker said, one of the challenges of this line of research is that language itself is always evolving — and algorithms are notoriously bad at discerning context.

Take, for example, cursing. “Swear words have changed in the last 10 years,” he said, noting that now, far from necessarily being an expression of anger, cursing can be either utterly casual, or even positive, used to emphasize a point or express an enthusiasm. He is updating his electronic dictionaries accordingly.

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Facebook, Twitter Block Post Claiming COVID Is Less Deadly Than Flu

Social media giants Facebook and Twitter have blocked a post from President Donald Trump on Tuesday falsely claiming COVID-19 is less deadly than the flu. Facebook has removed the post, while Twitter has added a message saying it broke the rules on “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.” 

“We remove incorrect information about the severity of COVID-19,” a Facebook spokesperson told Reuters.

Trump, who is currently recovering from the virus, posted the controversial tweet early in the day.

“Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!” Trump tweeted.

According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control, 22,000 deaths were linked to the flu during the 2019 to 2020 influenza season.

Trump admitted to Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward in February that he had been intentionally downplaying COVID-19 on purpose. The recordings of the conversation were released in September and used as source material for Woodward’s latest book, “Rage.”

In the interview with Woodward, Trump said COVID-19 is “more deadly than even your strenuous flus” but admitted to downplaying the virus in order to not cause a panic. 

Trump is currently at the White House, after spending several days at Walter Reed Military Hospital to receive treatment for the virus. First lady Melania Trump, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and three Republican senators are the latest political figures to contract COVID-19.

Coronavirus cases continue to rise across the United States. As of Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET, there are nearly 7.5 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S., with the domestic death toll over 210,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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