The Social Side of being Sick

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I felt a tickle in my throat this morning.  It better not be the flu, the one that has gripped most of Canada and the US in the worst way this season.  Will I change my Facebook status to declare my imminent illness?  Maybe.  I’d be part of a large group. 

How many times has the flu been tweeted about in Canada this winter, over the past 3 months to be exact?  The answer: 93 thousand times.  That’s 9% of the total global conversations, at 5.2 million.  Canada has been hit harder this year than in recent years with the flu bug.  The number of people taking to Twitter to complain seems to be higher as well.  The data dates back only a year, but from January-March 2012 the number of conversations talking about #flu was at 37K.  We are now three times higher, albeit at the height of the season.

An interesting side note, perhaps for marketers, is that a small percentage of those who tweet with the hashtag #flu also accompany it with #fml.  It’s a nasty one this year.

What’s more, CTV released this story about how Google is helping to track cases of the flu in North America.  Websites like sickweather.com, covered in CTV’s article, are analyzing people’s tweets and Facebook statuses to find real-time information about sickness, versus the government, which has to wait for a list of reported cases before it can analyze.  Better check it before your next holiday.

Social is an especially handy tracking system when it comes to learning what people are doing about their flu. Bed rest is inevitable.  Skepticism about the flu shot and admittance about not getting one seem to dominate.  This goes back to a Rick Mercer rant from November.  Stigma that the flu shot doesn’t work or that people don’t like the flu virus being injected into them is likely to blame for the lack of protection and foresight.  Now some of them are sick and instead of eating their words, they’re proclaiming them in 140 characters.

I hope that tickle in my throat goes away after a healthy dose of Oil of Oregano.  After all, I’ve had my flu shot and don’t expect to be taking my woes to Twitter about it any time soon.

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