#Zika on Instagram

Summary

How publics discuss the health crisis through online visuals and text

Presenter: Jeanine Guidry, Virginia Commonwealth University

Social media is now one of the primary places where people seek out information about the Zika virus. However, little is known about the content of these messages and about their public engagement. In addition, visual social media platforms like Instagram are under-studied in social media research. These visual platforms are particularly significant because of the different manner visuals are processed as compared to text-based messages. Therefore, the goal of this study is to determine how the public is talking about and responding to conversations about a current infectious disease outbreak, Zika, on visual social media platform Instagram.

Abstract

#Zika on Instagram: How publics discuss the health crisis through online visuals and text

Until recently, Zika was relatively obscure disease with only 14 cases documented worldwide before 2007 (CDC, 2016a). Prior to 2015, Zika outbreaks had only occurred in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands; however, in May 2015 the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) confirmed the first known case in Brazil (Lupton, 2016). Currently, outbreaks are occurring in many countries, and local mosquito-borne Zika cases have been reported in the U.S. in Florida and Texas (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016b). Additionally, this recent outbreak of the Zika virus has been associated with a dramatically increased incidence of microcephaly in newborns whose mothers were infected with Zika (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016a).

Social media is now one of the primary places where people seek out information about the Zika virus. However, little is known about the content of these messages and about their public engagement. In addition, visual social media platforms like Instagram are under-studied in social media research. These visual platforms are particularly significant because of the different manner visuals are processed as compared to text-based messages (Houts, Doak, Doak, & Loscalzo, 2006). Therefore, the goal of this study is to determine how the public is talking about and responding to conversations about a current infectious disease outbreak, Zika, on visual social media platform Instagram. This analysis will shed light on current trends in social media engagement surrounding this key health topic, and will provide health professionals and communications practitioners with important insights to improve the dissemination of information about infectious diseases and better engage with audiences on visual social media platforms.

This study, using a quantitative content analysis, analyzed a random sample of 1,000 Instagram posts, published between September-November 2016 and which included the hashtags #Zika and #ZikaVirus, focusing specifically on the type of information included, and the frequency of likes and comments on these posts. Further analyses on the public’s social media engagement will focus on health behavior and risk perception theories (Covello, Peters, Wojtecki, & Hyde, 2001).

The study is currently ongoing and will be completed by February 1, 2017. The findings will provide insight for health communication researchers and practitioners about how the Zika virus is portrayed on Instagram, how the Zika outbreak should be approached on visual platforms like Instagram from a public health perspective, and how public health communities can engage publics more effectively during an outbreak of this kind.

Slide Presentation

Panel Debriefing and Discussion

Special Zika Aircast at DCHC 2017

Skip to toolbar