Social discourse and reopening after COVID-19

A post-lockdown analysis of flickering emotions and trending stances in Italy


  • Massimo Stella University of Exeter



COVID-19, emotional profiling, cognitive network science, cognition, social media, complex networks


Although the COVID-19 pandemic has not been quenched yet, many countries lifted nationwide lockdowns to restart their economies, with citizens discussing the facets of reopening over social media. Investigating these online messages can open a window into people’s minds, unveiling their overall perceptions, their fears and hopes about the reopening. This window is opened and explored here for Italy, the first European country to adopt and release lockdown, by extracting key ideas and emotions over time from 400k Italian tweets about #fase2 — the reopening. Cognitive networks highlighted dynamical patterns of positive emotional contagion and inequality denounce invisible to sentiment analysis, in addition to a behavioural tendency for users to retweet either joyous or fearful content. While trust, sadness and anger fluctuated around quarantine-related concepts over time, Italians perceived politics and the government with a polarised emotional perception, strongly dominated by trust but occasionally featuring also anger and fear.

Author Biography

Massimo Stella, University of Exeter

Lecturer in computer science at the University of Exeter and a scientific consultant and founder of Complex Science Consulting.




How to Cite

Stella, M. (2020). Social discourse and reopening after COVID-19: A post-lockdown analysis of flickering emotions and trending stances in Italy . First Monday, 25(11).