I AM THE VIRUS: DIGITAL STORYTELLING AND FICTIONAL TWITTER ACCOUNTS IN THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS IN SPAIN
Keywords:digital storytelling, twitter narratives, humour, health crisis, fictional accounts
The purpose of this work is to understand the role of digital storytelling as a conversation asset regarding social and health emergencies, specifically fictional parody characters in social media, as chroniclers of ongoing crises. We will focus on a strikingly popular phenomenon: the Twitter account @coronavid19, where the virus, presented as a fictional character, offers a humorous chronicle in almost real time through social media, from the early breaking news related to the presence of the virus in the country to the unfolding of an unprecedented social and health crisis. The account got more than 450,000 followers in its first week of existence, coinciding with the first confirmed Covid19 cases in mainland Spain (February 2020) and was widely covered by mainstream media. It currently has more than 860.000 followers, which is way higher than official health and governmental Twitter accounts. This paradigmatic case study has been chosen considering its impact from the early stages of the pandemic, but also its peculiarities as a fictional character and a privileged chronicler in the first person. Our case analysis is aimed to understand how fictional parody characters are built in discursive and extra-discursive terms, how they interact with followers and how narrative and character traits evolve along the crisis. We also want to observe whether they add nuances to social discussion, reframe news content (emphasizing or downplaying events) and serve as a tool to cope with hard times, fostering collective empowerment, mutual empathy, while stressing official recommendations using irony and mocking irrational behaviour.