Point/Counterpoint: Should congresspeople limit their social-media use?
Two columnists discuss the advantages and implications of social-media use by member of Congress.
January 28, 2019
AOC doesn’t need your social media advice
Can we stop pretending relatable politicians are bad?
Ever since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez burst onto the national scene last June, she’s been attacked for being different. She’s a young female former bartender of color who wants to shake up Washington. She has invigorated the American left while representing a sea change in our country’s youngest generation of voters, and one of the main ingredients of her gravitas is her social media.
Part of being an effective politician in this era is having a strong internet presence. You have to be good online; it’s just a natural evolution from having to be good on TV and radio before that and print before that.
If we take the pessimistic luddite approach to politicians on social media, we’ll stifle their connection to constituents. We make fun of old politicians not knowing how the basics of how Google and Facebook work, but we sneer when a younger one is actually aware of how the digital age is affecting our world. We have to look forward to a future in which more politicians are acceptable, relatable, and able to communicate effectively in online spheres.
Regardless of what you think about her policies, we should all be able to agree that Ocasio-Cortez’s ability to connect with people is a good thing for politics. And it’s not like she’s merely an online personality with a congressional office, Ocasio-Cortez does the work. She campaigns door to door. She has the highest percentage of small donations. She gives speeches, attends rallies, and collaborates with other members of Congress. She does it all in addition to being a social-media powerhouse.
Perhaps a bit more formality would make Congress’ youngest woman a little more palatable to the old guard, but muzzling the Democratic Party’s brightest new star doesn’t really seem like the best move.
Those looking to restrain Ocasio-Cortez’s social media should get out of the way, or else risk their mentions getting lit up like the Fourth of July.
AOC should be careful about her online presence
The dramatic shift in our political climate because of the new Congress and the way campaigns were run in 2018. The demographic composition of the House of Representatives is younger and far more diverse than it has been in years. This is largely due in part to the appeal many candidates created through new marketing strategies on social media. While I am completely here for this more approachable image Washington is getting, I can’t help but think that too much change too quickly won’t end well for the new members of Congress.
An example of this shift is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. If you follow Twitter culture, you’ll notice new lingo that most congresspeople wouldn’t even go near. However, when connecting with members of a younger generation, it’s important to understand that the best way to connect with them and secure their support is to communicate in a way they feel comfortable with and understand. Ocasio-Cortez does exactly this.
When Rashida Tlaib called the president a not-so-nice word and got bashed for being unprofessional, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support. In the tweet, she said “sis” in reference to Tlaib, which nowadays is a very common and casual word. Instantly, I felt like I could connect with her. This feeling was mutual all across Twitter — young people finally felt represented.
My only caution is that while this new young wave of congresspeople is headstrong and wanting to make change, we can’t forget who still runs Washington. Congress and the political sphere is still heavily dominated by older, white men. I am all for change and making Congress look and sound more like the average American, but constantly pushing the boundaries is eventually going to make some very powerful people angry. Whatever change that has come about could be stopped dead in its tracks. The use of social media is a very effective tool to reach your constituents, but somewhere along the road, you have to find the balance of being relatable and being professional to match the office you hold. The line hasn’t been crossed yet, but politicians’ social-media use will either help them or be the end of them (see: Steve King).