An Ethnography Study of a Viral YouTube Educational Video in Ecuador: Dealing With Death and Grief in Times of COVID-19
Frontiers in Psychiatry
In Western societies, death is a social and educational taboo. Poor education about death and mourning processes and overprotective family and social attitudes move children away from death to avoid "unnecessary suffering." The COVID-19 outbreak highlighted these shortcomings and the difficult management of grief's complexity under sudden and unexpected scenarios. The need for immediate and constant updates related to COVID-19 benefited from social media coverage's immediacy. The use of YouTube
... as a digital platform to disseminate/search for knowledge exploded, raising the need to conduct ethnographic studies to describe this community's people and culture and improve the booming social media's educational capacity and quality. The present virtual ethnography studied 255,862 YouTube views/users and their behavior related to "Vuela Mariposa, Vuela," a children's story available online since 2009 (not monetized) about the cycle of life, death, and disenfranchised grief (not acknowledged by society) that went viral (+>999%) on May. To our knowledge, this case study is the first original research that explores the ethnography of (i) a viral video, (ii) on death and grief taboo topics, (iii) for prescholars, and (iv) before and during the COVID pandemic. The quantitative and qualitative analyses identified a change in the users' profiles, engagement, and feedback. During the previous 11 years, the users were 35–44 years old Mexican and Spanish women. Those in grief used narrative comments to explain their vital crisis and express their sorrow. In the pandemic, the analysis pointed to Ecuador as the virality geographical niche in a moment when the tragic scenarios in its streets were yet unknown. The timeline match with the official records confirmed the severity of their pandemic scenario. The viral video reached a broad population, with normal distribution for age, and including male gender. Engagement by non-subscribers, direct search (traffic sources), and mean visualization times suggested educational purposes as confirmed by the users' feedback with critical thinking referring to the cycle of life's meaning and societal mourning. For the youngest users, the video was part of academic assignments. The ethnography pointed at YouTube as a flexible education resource, immediately reaching diverse users, and being highly sensitive to critical events.