Studying ageism on social media. An exploration of ageing discourses related to Covid-19 in the Italian Twittersphere
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As recent contributions by international scholars have highlighted, the state of emergency caused by the diffusion of Covid-19 has further stressed the importance of exploring ageism’s pervasiveness and the extent to which ageist discourses are appropriated or opposed by the public. Since social media platforms seem to provide an increasingly relevant space for generational stereotyping that highlights conflict between younger and older generations, investigating ageism towards older people expressed on social media during the pandemic is deemed particularly important. This article explores ageing discourses circulated within the Italian Twittersphere during the first peak of the Covid-19 emergency. It draws on a dataset of 7M+ Covid-related tweets collected in the first phase of the health crises. Through quanti-qualitative analysis, it explores Twitter content related to Covid-19 and older people: 110,316 tweets detected taking advantage of a set of ad hoc keywords (e.g., anzian*, vecch*). Drawing on our findings, we show that explicit stereotypical opinions are quite residual, and we put forth and discuss the concept of platformised ageing discourse to explain how social media platforms’ structure and functioning affect ageing related cultural production.