Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is better at social media than you. Whether it’s clapping back at curmudgeons of the right, inviting her followers to join her in a one-sided game of hide and seek with the Senate Majority Leader, or helping the average American understand the mysteries of Capitol Hill, the 29-year-old freshman congresswoman from New York is using her reach like no politicians before her. As the most popular member of Congress on social, AOC has hundreds of thousands more followers, just on Twitter, than Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and averages more interactions per month than the New York Times.
Luckily for the Democrats currently in charge of the House, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is willing to share her knowledge. After all, if the 2016 election exposed some of the most nefarious uses of social media available, then 2018 certainly showcased the positive power of the platforms that increasingly connect us all. While some things can’t be taught, AOC, the darling of Instagram and Twitter (and nightmare of Fox News), agreed Thursday to drop some social media wisdom on her fellow legislators of the left.
Despite rumored and reported distaste and distrust of the star congresswoman from the more centrist and established members of the left’s ranks, the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee asked Rep. Ocasio-Cortez take the team to school just two weeks after being sworn into office. The brainchild of Rep. Debbie Dingell, the social media class was co-taught by Connecticut Dem Jim Himes.
When older members of Congress needed a primer on how to more effectively use social media, @RepDebDingell brought in @jahimes, @tedlieu, @davidcicilline, and @AOC to teach them pic.twitter.com/g9xWLpU9Gt
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) January 18, 2019
While the class was for everyone, there’s no denying that, in and out of Washington, social media consumption and creation looks very different, depending on the age of the user.
“The older generation of members and senators is pretty clueless on the social media platforms. It’s pretty clear that a lot of members have 25-year-olds in their offices (running their social media),” Rep. Himes, 52, told Eliza Collins of USA Today.
“For younger members, they think of social media as every bit of an established form of communication as print or television or radio,” added Missouri Republican Josh Hawley, who, at 39, is a decade older than AOC, and also the youngest member of the Senate.
Hawley also acknowledged both the disconnect between today’s younger legislators and their elders, and the struggles faced by those elders when embracing tech. And those challenges cannot be ignored, because as AOC has freely demonstrated, social media is changing the way Americans connect with each other, including elected officials (or conversely, their constituents).
In many ways, Ocasio-Cortez shows how much Congress is like any other workplace, which inadvertently reminds voters that they cast their votes for real people.
She also uses (Twitter) to hold herself accountable to constituents. On Instagram, Ocasio-Cortez takes polls, and answers questions from followers.
Representatives from Twitter also joined Himes and Ocasio-Cortez for the lesson, which promised to go further in depth than the cheeky “how-to” tweet AOC tossed out on New Year’s Day.
A few social media ideas for public servants looking to build an audience:
– Endorse Single-Payer Medicare for All
– Hold Wall Street Accountable
– Make Min Wage = Living Wage
– Cancel Puerto Rican Debt
– End For-Profit Prisons & ICE Detention
– Fight for a #GreenNewDeal
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 2, 2019
Instead, this class promised students would learn “most effective ways to engage constituents on Twitter and the importance of digital storytelling.” Time will tell, of course, if anyone absorbed the knowledge dropped in their laps, but even before the class, evidence emerged this week that Dems simply aren’t doing social media the way they used to, when Brian Schatz, Chris Murphy, and Chuck Schumer had a very public and humorous discussion about the merits of sharing a boldly honest assessment of the shutdown from rapper Cardi B.
WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE pic.twitter.com/vMndLiXfzB
— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) January 17, 2019
A syllabus was not available as of this writing, but a tweet from Rep. Ted Lieu indicates that AOC truly did start with the basics.
Class was in session this morning! I was thrilled to offer some insights on Twitter and social media to my. colleagues this morning.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 17, 2019
It takes a special sort of person to share themselves and their skills so freely, and Ocasio-Cortez seems to have been born with that trait. She’s not just helping her colleagues understand social media, though—she’s using social media to help her constituents understand her colleagues, and their work.
Rep. @AOC is "demystifying the process for the American public"
— TheBeat w/Ari Melber (@TheBeatWithAri) January 17, 2019
As it grows ever more crucial to innovate and activate the youngest voting bloc as we prepare for 2020, it’s impossible not to concede that AOC has chosen to be the change she wants to see in the government. And with her record-breaking social media accomplishments, it’s undeniable that she’s the change that many, many people want to see as well.
— Justice Democrats (@justicedems) January 18, 2019