Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez frequently uses her Instagram to interact with her many followers — she has over two million. Ocasio-Cortez, who says she takes no corporate money for her political campaign, is known to do Instagram live broadcasts. During them, she answers questions and gives political insight — even while making macaroni and cheese.
She also gives her followers a behind-the-scenes look at what it's like to become a member of Congress. Scattered across her profile are collections of pictures and videos that show aspects of her daily life, from congressional orientation to doing her laundry. Ocasio-Cortez gives her followers a taste of her normal life, while also offering the average person some insight into Congress.
The New York Times compares these social media posts to the likes of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fireside chats. Politicians have made efforts in the past to connect with their supporters as transparently as possible — social media is making that a lot easier.
Not only is this increased political transparency good for building trust with supporters throughout a politicians campaign and governing term, it also increases the general public’s knowledge of how our government works.
Here in Minnesota, our lawmakers have yet to show this level of engagement with their social media followers, but there is still a social media presence. Sen. Amy Klobuchar regularly posts short videos and pictures of the work she is doing locally and in Washington D.C. Sen. Tina Smith uses her Instagram page to list her endorsements, ways to get involved with her campaign and how to become a registered voter. But Ocasio-Cortez has reached a new level of popularity with a younger generation of people by taking the time to talk directly to followers.
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s social media presence is a step in the right direction when it comes to mirroring Oscasio-Cortez’s efforts to reach her constituents. Her profile has a pinned story labeled “Congress,” which has pictures and videos of her congressional orientation with Ocasio-Cortez.
According to the Pew Research Center, 86 percent of 18-29 year olds are active social media users. Sharing political information on social media reaches the younger audience — pulling in a new generation of voters. It is crucial to engage young voters in political conversations and decision making, and using social media is an easy way to reach a large demographic.
Not only does it reach younger voters, it provides people with access to political information that they might not have had access to before. Ocasio-Cortez explaining how Congress works, describing how she plans to combat issues and being excited to work for the American people are personal elements of politicians that we don't always get to see.
Social media is an easy way to engage with voters and emphasize transparency, and politicians in Minnesota need to start finding other avenues to reach their voters. Traditional ways of sharing information may have been successful in the past, but if we want young adults to be politically informed when casting their ballots, we have to think of different ways to reach people.