Using Social Media Data to Evaluate Urban Parks Use during the COVID-19 Pandemic

How to cite this study

Niță, M.R., Arsene, M., Barbu, G., Cus, A.G., Ene, M., Serban, R.M., Stama, C.M. and Stoia, L.N. 2021. Using social media data to evaluate urban parks use during the COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18(20), 10860.


This study measures use and perceptions of eight urban parks in Bucharest, Romania, using Instagram posts and Google reviews during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of posts and reviews was found to be correlated with the initial lockdown, as both on average decreased during March, April, and May, and increased after June as restrictions lessened and warm weather increased.


This study is relevant to those interested in using social media data to assess perceptions and visitation patterns in outdoor recreational areas. Though this methodology is useful, it should be noted that when measuring visitation through social media by month, other control variables such as seasonality, weather, or organized events should be included to account for visitation differences per month. These control variables were not included in this study when comparing the base period (January and February before the pandemic) and March-August.


This study focuses on eight urban parks in Bucharest, Romania.

Trail Type

Eight urban parks in Bucharest, Romania, were chosen for this study. The average number of visitors per weekend day ranged from 820 to 7,800 and park sizes ranged from 1 ha to 94 ha. The eight parks are: Cismigiu Park, Tineretului, Circului, Drumul Taberei, Tei, Sebastian, Izvor and Paci. The parks are categorized as metropolitan, municipal, and district. Amenities provided by the parks include artificial lakes, gardens, playgrounds, fountains, walking paths, basketball courts, and tennis courts.


The purpose of this study was to use Instagram and Google reviews to evaluate how the COVID-19 pandemic changed the use and perceptions of urban parks. This work was supported by a grant from the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitization which evaluates the role of nature-based innovations for healthy cities.


  • Monthly Instagram posts and Google reviews in the parks tended to decrease in April and May (during the pandemic lockdown) and increase after June. This increase is likely due to tourism, warmer weather, and fewer restrictions from the pandemic. 
  • Instagram posts mainly show personal activities (49%), selfies (39%), or general landscapes of the parks (27%). 
  • In Google reviews, people mainly referred to the aesthetics of the parks, using words such as “wide alleys,” “cleanliness,” and “greenery.”


Reviews obtained from Google Maps and Instagram posts tagged with the park’s location were used to assess perceptions of Bucharest’s parks. All Instagram posts and Google Maps reviews that included text and star ratings were collected from January–August 2020. Microsoft Excel was used to manage the data extracted. A word cloud analysis was used using qualitative data from Google reviews, analyzing reviews focused on recreational, social relations, aesthetic values, cultural aspects, the COVID-19 pandemic, and more. Instagram photos were classified as selfies, personal activities, buildings, animals, plants, and general landscapes. Data was aggregated with the monthly number of posts from both platforms for each park to analyze the evolution of social media posts during the pandemic. 346 posts were made on Instagram in Romanian and 329 in English. On Google reviews, 798 reviews were in Romanian and 189 in English.

Added to library on November 27, 2023