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From a micro-blogging site, Twitter became a place to seek and provide help during the second COVID-19 wave and played an exemplary role

#Oxygen #Remdesivir #HospitalBed #Plasma #SOS #Urgent

Between April and May 2021, these were not just Twitter hashtags. They had become the only hope for some to save their loved ones.

Twenty-four-year-old Muskaan Sharma was desperate to save her sister battling a severe case of COVID-induced black fungus. When nothing worked, she turned to Twitter to send distress calls for antifungal injection Amphotericin B. Her tweets went viral and she was contacted by scores of people.

While she managed to get two-three vials through the Twitter leads, most of the 120 vials required for her sister’s recovery came from a local distributor who, surprisingly, was following her tweets. “The tweets made sure that people knew about the case and the requirement,” says Muskaan.

Data shared by Twitter indicates that around that time, tweets seeking or providing medical help increased by 1,958% (20x) as compared to the preceding months (February-March). #Covid19 and #Blood were tweeted 77% and 72% more, respectively. #Plasma saw an 834% increase and tweets with #SOS went up by 152% more. Tweets around #Vaccine and #Vaccination ballooned by 246% and those on #IndiaFightsCorona saw a 530% increase. Also, fundraising conversations shot up by 731% (8x).

Managing the sudden influx wasn’t easy. Twitter’s teams — IT, network, product engineering, infrastructure and data centre — collectively navigated the evolving situation. The platform also came with initiatives to channelise the calls for help. It introduced a COVID-19 hub on the Explore page, an SOS page and lists of credible accounts to follow. It also had a search prompt that led to credible, authoritative content on COVID-19 and restricted advertising containing reference to COVID-19. It collaborated with the government through @CovidIndiaSeva, an information service that offered answers to health-related queries.

“We have been humbled to watch a massive positive people’s movement take shape on Twitter,” says Shilpa Kannan, India Curation Lead, Twitter.  “One of the elemental things that powered this shared resolve on Twitter is the connected nature of our platform,” she adds.

Twitter had become a platform where people found something that went beyond what they had set out to look for: a support system.

“Apart from the help that came out of it, it made me not feel alone. There were so many people helping me out. Hope stayed alive,” says Muskaan.

Delhi-based Akanksha Upadhyay echoes the sentiment. She sourced everything — oxygen, beds, medicines and even an ambulance — through Twitter when her 15-member family contracted the virus. She recalls how she had posted a tweet seeking a rare injection, being issued only by the Meerut DM at that point, for one of her uncles and how some local journalists had made sure that she got it.

Even amid the pandemonium, Twitter shares that prayer or hope emerged as the dominant sentiment with the folded hands being the most tweeted emoji. Sign of the times, indeed.