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Social Media Usage During Disasters: Exploring the Impact of Location and Distance on Online Engagement

  • Qing Deng (a1), Yi Liu (a2), Xiaodong Liu (a2), Hui Zhang (a1) and Xiaolong Deng (a3)...


Social media play an important role in emergency management. The location of citizens and distance from a disaster influence the social media usage patterns. Using the Tianjin Port Explosion, we apply the correlation analysis and regression analysis to explore the relationship between online engagement and location. Citizens’ online engagement is estimated by social media. Three dimensions of the psychological distance – spatial, temporal, and social distances – are applied to measure the effects of location and distance. Online engagement is negatively correlated to such 3 kinds of the distance, which indicates that citizens may pay less attention to a disaster that happens at a far away location and at an area of less interaction or at a relatively long period of time. Furthermore, a linear model is proposed to measure the psychological distance. The quantification relationship between online engagement and psychological distance is discussed. The result enhances our understanding of social media usage patterns related to location and distance. The study gives a new insight on situation awareness, decision-making during disasters.


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to Hui Zhang, Room 1009, Liuqing Builiding, Tsinghua University, Haidian District, Beijing, China 100084 (e-mail:


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Social Media Usage During Disasters: Exploring the Impact of Location and Distance on Online Engagement

  • Qing Deng (a1), Yi Liu (a2), Xiaodong Liu (a2), Hui Zhang (a1) and Xiaolong Deng (a3)...


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