After she won the Democratic primary election for New York’s 14th District back in 2018, at 29 years old, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman to ever serve in the United States Congress. She has since been reelected in 2020.
Her age and understanding of youth culture set Ocasio-Cortez apart from her fellow members of Congress. Ocasio-Cortez, better known by her initials, AOC, has a substantial social media presence, with an Instagram following of nearly 8 million people as of November.
AOC’s Twitter following is comparable to that of other Democratic frontrunners. Her 10.1 million followers don’t trail far behind newly elected vice president Kamala Harris’ 10.7 million, and she nearly doubles Speaker of U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s 5.8 million. Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey recognized her success on Twitter by responding to a tweet and stating that she’s “mastering the medium.”
Her platform doesn’t stop there; AOC is even on Animal Crossing. She is a gamer, and in her most recent adventure, she took on one of the most popular quarantine games known as Among Us. Much like the party games Mafia and Werewolf, Among Us is an online multiplayer game that takes place on a spaceship. “Crewmates” must complete tasks while trying to eliminate the secret “Imposter” who tries to kill them.
Hi there! Very new to this.
I would like to visit random people’s islands and leave a doodle or note on their bulletin board.
Can I do that? If so, how?
Should I open my DMs for the first time since the Zuckerberg hearing for the Dodo codes?? https://t.co/pQlm0ES1cM
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 7, 2020
On Oct. 19, AOC tweeted: “Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote? (I’ve never played but it looks like a lot of fun).”
She received an incredible amount of engagement. “How’re you a politician and cool?” said @VironRagnaros. Others weren’t so excited. “How about go to work” tweeted @BradOakley2. Many jumped to her defense, responding that campaigning is work.
AOC also received interest from popular streamers such as Myth, Disguised Toast, Dr. Lupo and Pokimane, who wished to collaborate with her. Thus began her Twitch endeavor. Over the next two days, AOC put together a streaming setup and made a channel.
Oct. 21 was a day of firsts for AOC; she had her first Twitch livestream and first Among Us gameplay. Even fellow member of “the Squad” and representative for Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, joined AOC in the game.
The stream amassed around 439,000 live viewers, taking the third-place trophy for most Twitch live viewers (the record is 628,000), and has since collected 5.5 million views. Her numbers far surpass those of former President Donald Trump and newly-elected President Joe Biden, whose Twitch streams reach about 6,000 and 17,000 total views respectively, according to The Guardian.
Having captured her audience’s attention, AOC encouraged viewers to vote. She stressed the importance of making a voting plan, asked people who are unable to vote to direct those who can to resources and advocated for the blue ticket.
The livestream was a tactful campaign event for AOC to connect with the young people she represents in a refreshing way that is uncharacteristic of other politicians. Her stream was successful, and other Twitch campaigns before hers pale in comparison. What is it about Ocasio-Cortez that makes her so dominant in the social media realm?
1. AOC Knows Her Audience
AOC has already established her popularity among young progressives and blue voters. While there are no demographic statistics for her stream viewership, it is highly probable that her audience is mostly young people. Catering toward a popular interest, AOC is able to reach a significant population that other politicians might not know how to connect with.
2. AOC Is Relatable
By doing something as casual as playing a game, AOC is being relatable to her audience. Yes, she is a congresswoman, but when she’s not busy fighting for environmental justice or raising money for trans youth, she’s a regular person too. She likes to play videogames, and she has a sense of humor just like the rest of us. And voters will actually feel represented by a politician they feel understands them.
3. AOC Is Authentic
She did have a political agenda, but AOC’s livestream didn’t feel forced or performative. Sure, she knows what’s popular and she’ll go where people flock, but AOC is a gamer herself, and it’s clear she enjoyed playing. She was invested, anxious about being the Imposter and laughing along with her teammates. AOC doesn’t have to worry about people seeing through her character because she isn’t acting.
Inc. Magazine deemed her the “queen of digital media intelligence” back in 2019. Columnist Sean Wise wrote, “Digital emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically over digital channels including email and social media.” AOC’s Among Us livestream certainly secures her crown.
Her digital media intelligence is what distinguishes her from other politicians. Whether her policies are met with opposition or support, her resourceful command of social media is commendable.
In reference to AOC, Pelosi told USA Today, “While there are people who have a large number of Twitter followers, what’s important is that we have large numbers of votes on the floor of the House.”
Even though Pelosi certainly has more impact on legislation than AOC, it is unwise to underestimate a significant social media presence. While a large digital platform does not equate to political power, it still means something to have incredible influence in the national conversation online.
And who would young people like to see in office? Perhaps they want to be represented by those who understand modern problems. And as the numbers show, Pelosi might have a thing or two to learn from AOC about digital media intelligence.
Playing a game online is a simple thing to do, but it was a powerful move. Ocasio-Cortez’s role is an even bigger deal than it was before. She is a model for future politicians and the changing ways that they will gain support from and connect with their audiences.