An analysis of tweets in response to the death of Michael Jackson

Dion Hoe‐Lian Goh (Nanyang Technological University, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information, Nanyang, Singapore)
Chei Sian Lee (Nanyang Technological University, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information, Nanyang, Singapore)

Aslib Proceedings

ISSN: 0001-253X

Publication date: 20 September 2011

Abstract

Purpose

Grieving resulting from the death of a loved one or someone familiar is a painful process and individuals invariably seek support to help them through this difficult period. In this study, the paper investigates the role microblogs play by exploring the types of messages following the death of a public figure, Michael Jackson, “the King of Pop”.

Design/methodology/approach

Content analysis was conducted using 50,000 tweets harvested from Twitter from the first 12 days after Michael Jackson's death. A coding instrument characterizing a set of categories that users posted about Jackson's death was inductively constructed, and then applied to the entire dataset of tweets.

Findings

About 50 per cent of tweets fell into categories commonly associated with expressions of emotions or thoughts due to death. However, as the single largest category, Twitter was used primarily as a platform for sharing news and other information. Surprisingly, categories not normally associated with grieving, such as spreading of rumours, expressions of hatred and spam, also occupied a high proportion of tweets.

Originality/value

There has been little work done in examining microblogs as platforms for giving and receiving support in general and, more specifically, for the expression of grief. Therefore, the present research is timely, as it seeks to understand the role microblogs play in the grieving process.

Keywords

Citation

Hoe‐Lian Goh, D. and Sian Lee, C. (2011), "An analysis of tweets in response to the death of Michael Jackson", Aslib Proceedings, Vol. 63 No. 5, pp. 432-444. https://doi.org/10.1108/00012531111164941

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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