Is Social Media a Virus: How Social Media Influences Attitudes Toward COVID-19
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Recent research on the utilization of social media for receiving COVID-19 information finds most individuals utilize social media for knowledge on vaccines and evolving social distancing policies. Existing research on the influence of social media indicates these platforms can increase the likelihood of believing misinformation related to COVID-19. This paper utilizes regression modeling to analyze whether social media can increase negative sentiments toward COVID-19 policies. Results indicate social media does not display a strong relationship with more negative COVID-19 policies in isolation. Rather, higher social media usage can exacerbate existing negative COVID-19 sentiments when certain factors are present. These include lower levels of political knowledge, weaker social ties, and when users utilize specific social media platforms which better enable them to ignore conflicting information. However, this analysis found ideology also impacts the relationship between using social media and the development of COVID-19 policy sentiments, suggesting echo chambers and party tribalism likewise impact the internalization of COVID-19 information found on social media. These results offer partial support for the hypothesis that increasing social media usage can lead to negative sentiments toward COVID-19, especially when using social media platforms whose structure better enables the development of insulated environments.