BTS fans helped push mask-wearing during height of pandemic: study

BTS fans helped push mask-wearing during height of pandemic: studyBTS fans helped push mask-wearing during height of pandemic: study
via YouTube
A new study found that health-related posts that feature K-pop stars, most notably BTS, attract more responses from the general public and have a higher chance of going viral than those that do not.
Key details: Published in Online Social Networks and Media in September, the study, led by Herbert Chang, an assistant professor of quantitative social science at Dartmouth College, looked into how K-pop stars helped further spread health-related messages to the public during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 to 2021.
Joining Chang in the study is Emilio Ferrara, a professor of computer science and communication at the University of Southern California, and Becky Pham, a USC doctoral candidate.
Their study: During the study, Chang and his co-authors analyzed around 7 million posts related to mask-wearing and K-pop posted by X users, formerly Twitter, between March 2020 and December 2021. Those 7 million posts were extracted from a massive dataset of 3.5 billion posts using natural language processing methods.
How they did it: Through a selection of keywords, the group refined the dataset into subsets that were specific to their study, such as posts with the #WearAMask hashtag, posts from important institutions and figures like World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and posts containing K-pop hashtags like #BTS and #BTSArmy.
Besides BTS, Chang and the group also examined posts about BLACKPINK and Twice, noting in the study that they are the “three most prominent K-pop groups on Twitter.”
Their findings: The group discovered that health-related posts featuring K-pop stars received more responses from countries often underserved by Western-based health organizations, such as South America, Central America and Southeast Asia, than posts that did not contain K-pop keywords.
In one of the graphs in the study, the group highlighted that posts with “K-pop” and “Dr. Tedros” as keywords were more popular in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, with 7.3%, 2.63% and 12.9% virality, respectively. Meanwhile, South Korea and Vietnam saw a much higher virality at 31.9% and 38.4%, respectively, in those two keywords.
Going viral: An example of the phenomenon includes when Dr. Tedros congratulated BTS for the release of their song “Dynamite” on X on Aug. 21, 2020, and thanked them for encouraging their fans, widely known as ARMY, to wear masks. The post amassed over 86,000 likes and 38,600 reposts.
View post on X
Similar analysis: Chang’s group findings go in line with the similar analysis X released in January 2022, showing that the majority of the top 20 countries posting about K-pop were from South America and Southeast Asia, such as Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, to name a few.
Inside the U.S.: Meanwhile, the group also found that interior states like South and North Dakota (52% and 41%), Mississippi (39%), Missouri (39%), Utah (37%), Louisiana (37%), Wisconsin (36%) and Nebraska (33%) saw the biggest viral boosts in posts referencing K-pop, BTS and COVID-19 on X.
The road ahead: In a statement, Chang noted that the results of their study “shows that we can use this as a strategy for targeted interventions.”
“It begs the question,” Chang added, “in addition to mask wearing, can we use this to potentially increase vaccine uptake or even other health prevention practices?”
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