Attention dynamics on the Chinese social media Sina Weibo during the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 was first detected in Hubei province of China and has had severe impact on the life in the country since then. We investigate how this epidemic has influenced attention dynamics on the biggest Chinese microblogging website Sina Weibo in the period December 16, 2019 – April 17, 2020. We focus on the real-time Hot Search List (HSL), which provides the ranking of the most popular 50 hashtags based on the amount of Sina Weibo searches on them. We show, how the specific events, measures and developments during the epidemic affected the emergence of new hashtags and the ranking on the HSL. A significant increase of COVID-19 related hashtags started to occur on HSL around January 20, 2020, when the transmission of the disease between humans was announced. Then very rapidly a situation was reached, where the participation of the COVID-related hashtags occupied 30-70% of the HSL, however, with changing content. We give an analysis of how the hashtag topics changed during the investigated time span and conclude that there are three periods separated by February 12 and March 12. In period 1, we see strong topical correlations and clustering of hashtags; in period 2, the correlations are weakened, without clustering pattern; in period 3, we see potential of clustering while not as strong as in period 1. To quantify the dynamics of HSL we measured the lifetimes of hashtags on the list and the rank diversity at given ranks. Our observations indicate attention diversification since the COVID-19 outbreak in Mainland China and a higher rank diversity at the top 15 ranks on HSL due to the COVID-19 related hashtags, a drastic attention decay shortly after the outburst and a slower decay for a longer period.

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Additional Info
Field Value
Creator Cui, Hao
Creator Kertesz, János
Group Health Studies
Group Computational Epidemiology
Publisher EPJ Data Science
SoBigData Node SoBigData EU
Source EPJ Data Science volume 10, Article number: 8 (2021)
Thematic Cluster Web Analytics [WA]
system:type JournalArticle
Management Info
Field Value
Author Wright Joanna
Maintainer János Kertesz,
Version 1
Last Updated 3 October 2023, 16:34 (CEST)
Created 8 February 2021, 14:27 (CET)