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Emotions During Pandemic’s Second Wave: Fear Caused by News on Covid-19 Reached March 2020 Levels

The emotion data, collected from Media Group Keskisuomalainen’s regional and local newspapers and analyzed by NayaDaya Inc. shows how the Covid-19 pandemic and the fear among citizens is growing month by month.

Nearly 150 000 reader emotion reactions have been compiled from thousands of news articles handling corona virus pandemic during a nine-month period from January to September 2020. The data has been collected and analyzed by using the NayaDaya Inc.’s scientific analytics, which reveals how the news concerning the pandemic affect the citizens’ emotions and behavior in Finland.


As the first wave of the pandemic subsided, the emotions toward the news eased and turned positive. In May and June, the positive experiences surpassed the negative ones due to the strengthening of emotions such as interest, joy, and relief. Along with the abandonment of the Emergency Powers Act and restrictions, the lowest level of negative emotions hit June. In July, however, the development had turned negative again.


”During Summer, Finns felt that they had won the first round with the Pandemic. The number of infections had been slowed down due to reduced social contacts and increased attention to hand hygiene. The worst case scenarios did not materialize. However, the worsening of the pandemic in the world brought the Finns back to reality. During September, as the number of infections kept on increasing, the fear among Finns rose to the similar level as it had been in winter,” says Silja Tenhunen who has followed the emotion data evoked by the corona news at Media Group Keskisuomalainen until this fall. Tenhunen currently works as a journalistic expert at software house Anygraaf.


In the quest of preventing the pandemic, the ”new normal” not being news any longer, poses a challenge. Tenhunen underlines that during winter and spring, the media was filled with news not only about the spread and danger of the new disease but also about survival stories as well as innovative solutions to problems found by entrepreneurs, as well as municipal and health care administrations. New viewpoints to the pandemic are now far more difficult to find.


”Following the good and the bad news is an essential part of journalism, but the never-ending flow of information, education and similar stories do not necessarily serve the readers’ or reporters’ best interest. The prolonged crisis wares people off and fresh viewpoints or solutions are hard to find,” states Tenhunen.


Are We Facing a Joyless Winter?


According to Tenhunen, the more negative second wave of corona news – judged by its content and effect – is not surprising.


”If the number of infections continues to rise, the vaccination timeline remains blurry and the estimates about the slowing down of the pandemic stay inaccurate, we may have a gloomy upcoming winter in the news media. On the other hand, as soon as we are able to update these news, the direction of emotions could turn and people may become motivated to follow the recommendations as they see the light at the end of the tunnel,” estimates Tenhunen.


Negative emotions reinforced by the once again worsening pandemic, especially fear, sadness, and disappointment, predict passive and disengaged behavior. Based on NayaDaya’s behavior matrix only one fourth of emotions expressed in September indicate positive engagement, involvement, or willingness to help others.


NayaDaya Inc.’s CEO Timo Järvinen reminds us that all emotions are useful and can lead to meaningful behavior – which is the fundamental meaning of emotions. For example, a healthy amount of fear increases caution in a sensible way. Excessive fear, however, is disadvantageous to both individuals and the entire society: It makes people to forget the wellbeing of others and forces them to focus only on their own survival.


”For emotions to fulfill their purpose, we need facts to support our subjective appraisals. Both belittling and exaggeration are misleading. Exaggeration reduces the number of infections but is detrimental to the economy. Too little reaction, on the other hand, keeps the wheels rolling, but accelerates the pandemic. Now is the time for facts – we need both the sense of proportion as well as constructive, encouraging examples,” highlights Järvinen.


Annex: The Emotional and Behavioral Impact of the Coronavirus News Among the Finns


Further Information:

Timo Järvinen, CEO, NayaDaya Inc., tel. +358 40 505 7745, timo@nayadaya.com


NayaDaya Inc. reveals the way emotions and behavior interact with phenomena and brands. Through data, insight, empathy, and impact we empower responsible organizations, brands, and leaders to thrive and shape the world. News, data, and further information: www.nayadaya.com

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