How Covid-19 has made data experts the new-age social media influencers

Data scientists and healthcare experts, who share data and insights on Covid-19 on online platforms, have emerged as the social media influencers of these times. From Peter Kolchinsky and Michael Shellenberger to Scott Gottlieb and Anna Podolanczuk. They are well-known in their fields but have gained overnight popularity among regular folk.

Until three weeks ago, Divya Vinekar had not heard of Norbert Elekes, a self-proclaimed “data storyteller”, who has been tweeting Covid-19 statistics round the clock to over 180,000 followers for the last month or so.

“Suddenly his tweets started showing up on my timeline,” says the 31-year-old theatre artist from Mumbai, implying that a lot of people she follows on Twitter were engaging with Elekes’s tweets. These are realtime updates on coronavirus cases from around the world, along with a comparative analysis of these numbers over a period of time.   At a time when “nobody talks about anything else but the virus outbreak, his timeline offers statistics at a glance for one to stay updated,” says Vinekar.

For example, Tomas Pueyo, a Silicon Valley professional specialising in product, marketing and sales. On March 10, he uploaded on his Medium account a post titled “Coronavirus: Why you must act now”. It made a strong case for social distancing to reduce the devastating impact of the novel coronavirus on our lives. The post, backed by graphical analysis of the situation at hand, fetched over 40 million views and got translated into 30 foreign languages within a week of publishing.