Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts

Degree Name

Composition, Rhetoric, and Digital Media

First Advisor

Eric Mason, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Janine Morris, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Juliette Kitchens, Ph.D.



Social media platforms facilitate high-speed information sharing among digital technology users. But unregulated production of content across social media raises questions about the credibility of this content. During the COVID-19 pandemic, viral phenomena such as misinformation and conspiracy theories about the virus have spread rapidly across the globe, prompting misunderstanding, bias, and, at times, extreme actions both online and off. This thesis examines how language choices in social media posts function as a mode of action that not only can misinform but can serve to target certain groups for bias during a time of crisis. Specifically, it uses Kenneth Burke’s theory of dramatism to analyze a collection of tweets that contain the hashtag “#ChineseVirus” in order to better understand the attitudes, beliefs, and values associated with this controversial term. My findings consider the motives embodied in the collected artifacts and encourage readers to develop the rhetorical insights necessary for critical literacy in the age of social media.