Twitter messages about social distancing result in decreased local mobility the following day

Tweets about COVID-19 social distancing are linked with decreased local mobility the next day, according to a study published March 3 in Plos One.

Researchers built a database of hundreds of thousands of geotagged tweets about social distancing and COVID-19 safety measures. The tweets contained key terms such as "stay home", "stay safe", "wear mask", "wash hands" and "social distancing". 

The research team analyzed the tweets along with a daily index of state-by-state social distancing and found that tweets about social distancing were positively correlated with the practice of social distancing at the state level.

"The results of this paper are helpful to disentangle the effects of voluntary responses based on beliefs from the effects of government decisions to implement social distancing policies," the authors wrote. "Social networks such as Twitter reveal the beliefs of individuals about social distancing and are a good indicator of their willingness to comply with containment policies.

 

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