Facebook data scandals, accusations of influencing elections, Presidential Twitter tantrums, and the very existence of TikTok being threatened, social media platforms and internet giants are constantly be at the forefront of political debate.
There is no getting away from the fact that the internet has become a central part of political discourse around the world, and as more platforms rise and their power grows, the need for public representatives to understand how they work, or have at least a decent grasp on their functionality, multiplies in importance too.
Unfortunately, the average age of the current Members of the House of Representatives in Congress, is 57.6 years old, and for Senators, it is 62.9 years old. While 96% have a college degree and are very well educated, such education wouldn’t have quite covered the nuances and intricacies of internet literacy. It is seemingly up to the budding, rising generation of young representatives to take this mantle and pave the way for future contemporaries.
AOC to the Rescue
The youngest woman ever to serve in Congress, and someone with an incredible understanding of social media is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
In a similar way to how Donald Trump’s tweets create huge news stories, AOC’s social media presence has a correspondingly powerful effect, by driving conversations with her insight into a young political life, interactions with voters and even just every-day lifestyle tips (there are almost 5,000 news stories about her skincare routine, after she posted about it on her stories.)
Below are a few recent screen shots of her Instagram stories, using the “Questions” feature to hear from her followers, and proceeding to give highly detailed, genuinely caring and incredibly informative answers.
This takes time and a huge amount of empathy for a wide range of people’s concerns and issues, and while this might be what you expect from a public representative, it’s rare to see palpable rapport and compassion, especially over social media, where interactions can seem forced, faked and awkward.
A Social Media Rarity in Congress
It’s of course not just Instagram Q&A’s that make her social presence so strong. She consistently provides exceedingly smart progressive takes on the latest political discussions, and with her huge base of support (8.1 million Twitter followers, and 6 million on Instagram), she receives hundreds of thousands of retweets and millions of likes across platforms.
Such a reach is quite incredible, especially for a politician. She knows her audience, and what they will appreciate and share, and thanks to social media, her audience know her too.
Videos of her speaking in committee hearings regularly go viral thanks to her well prepared, relevant and knowledgable questioning, such as when she grilled Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, last year on the Cambridge Analytica scandal. These videos are inevitably widely shared across platforms and gain millions of views, further elevating her status as the political queen of social media.
But with this wide-scale attention comes increased scrutiny, especially from right-wing opponents who see her as a potential future President. She is constantly attacked by the press, with famous right-wing propaganda machine, the Fox News channel garnering an unhealthy fixation on her.
At one point early last year, Fox News mentioned her 3,181 times in just six weeks, with the media watchdog Media Matters noting how she was repeatedly “invalidated due to her age,” called a “little girl” who was pushing “Latin American values” on the US, along with claims that she had “taken over the Democratic Party.”
She also has the President rattled, most likely due to his habit of watching Fox News non-stop, and getting his daily briefing from Fox and Friends. Trump has tweeted about AOC many times, calling her a “wack job”, “dumb as a rock”, and shared a post calling her an “embarrassing, barely literate moron.”
Of course, these things more accurately describe the President himself rather than AOC, but she makes sure to let him know. She recently challenged him to release his own school report after he called in to Fox News to attack her intelligence once again…
Holding Her Own
This competence and sharpness that she translates to her online presence is scary to opponents because it makes her such a strong politician in the modern day.
Her vilification among the right wing is similar to that suffered by another strong female politician, Hillary Clinton, and will only get worse the longer her career progresses. But so far, she has shown she can handle the pressure, with the recent outrageous verbal abuse on the steps of Congress by fellow Representative Ted Yoho, being a prime example.
He, unprovoked, called her “disgusting” and a “f*cking bitch” to her face as they passed in Congress, and continued to shout at her. Her response in the House of Representatives, responding to his weak apology, was a mighty speech tackling not just her personal abuse, but the structural abuse of women that has held for so long. The speech was described by the New Yorker as one that should “be studied for its measured cadence, its artful construction, and its refusal of ugliness.”
While the powerful delivery addressing sexism struck a chord across the nation, she didn’t let the moment go to waste on social media either, hammering home her viral power by posting the below on her Instagram story. Casually strolling through Washington with Congress behind her, she nods along to the Doja Cat lyrics “I’m a bitch, I’m a boss/I’m a bitch and a boss, I’ma shine like gloss.”
If you take on AOC, you need to be prepared, and with many politicians in the GOP reaching the level of OAP, it’s unlikely they’ll cope against her talented grasp of the digital world.