Online Communities as a Form of Organizing Narrative Content about SARS-CoV-2 Vaccination: Big Data Analysis
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Online Community Social Networks Narrative Big Data Vaccination SARS-CoV-2 Antivaxers Information Background Public Opinion Opinion Polarization

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Sarkisova, A., Dunaeva, D., Petrov, E., Voronov, A., & Myagkov, M. (2023). Online Communities as a Form of Organizing Narrative Content about SARS-CoV-2 Vaccination: Big Data Analysis. Galactica Media: Journal of Media Studies, 5(4), 59-83.


Distrust of vaccines is one of the key problems of modern healthcare both in Russia and abroad. Mass vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 provoked a large number of social media narratives. Online communities play an important role in the formation and dissemination of narratives. The complex system of numerous online platforms for discussing the topic of vaccination on a social network deserves a special description.

The purpose of the study is to construct a typology of all significant communities of the popular Russian social network “VKontakte” that publish content on the topic of vaccination against COVID-19 (01/01/2020 – 03/01/2023) and describe it in terms of lobbied narratives. Big data collection and analysis methods were used, as well as narrative analysis. Of the 131,119 communities that published at least one vaccination message during the study period, 691 were selected based on self-positioning criteria (name, description) and/or the number of SARS‑CoV-2 vaccination messages above the established threshold. 14 thematic categories of communities have been identified, the self-positioning of which allows reconstructing narratives about forced vaccination and the right to choose; health care and debate about the benefits/effectiveness of vaccination; conspiracy theories; beneficiaries and trust in the authorities; pseudoscience, vaccination myths and scientific knowledge; childcare and parental rights; contrasting medical science with religious beliefs.

Narratives formed by online communities signify a pronounced polarization of opinions in the digital society regarding SARS-CoV-2 vaccination. The “pro-waxer” and “anti-vaxxer” narratives are reconstructed. Quantitatively “anti-vaxxer” communities significantly predominate over “pro-waxer” ones.
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