Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of the savviest social media users in US politics – but now, she’s taking a break for her mental health.
Last year, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez burst into mainstream public consciousness when she became the youngest congresswoman in US history. But it isn’t just Ocasio-Cortez’s youth that has made her one of the most famous female politicians in the world. The 29-year-old has also won plaudits – and almost as many detractors – for her straight-talking approach to politics and her savvy, outspoken social media presence.
Now, though, Ocasio-Cortez has spoken about an issue that many people have experienced first-hand: the toll that social media can take on one’s mental health. During an appearance on the Yahoo News podcast Skullduggery, the congresswoman revealed she had already quit Facebook, and planned to cut back on the time she spent on other social platforms.
“I personally gave up Facebook, which was kind of a big deal because I started my campaign on Facebook,” she said. “And Facebook was my primary digital organising tool for a very long time. I gave up on it.”
Ocasio-Cortez said she writes all her tweets and Instagram posts herself, adding that she thinks about the effects of social media “both as a person with a larger audience but also as an individual user of these platforms”.
And she explained that she had “started to impose little rules on myself” to scale back the time she spends on social media – although she admitted that “it takes a lot to kind of try and unwind other habits”.
“Like every once in a while, you’ll see me hop on Twitter on the weekends, but for the most part I take consumption of content, when it comes to consumption and reading, I take the weekends off,” she said.
“And so I’m not, like, scrolling through trying to read everything online that journalists are writing on weekends. I try to do that during the workweek.”
Ocasio-Cortez said she believes that “social media poses a public health risk to everybody.
“There are amplified impacts for young people, particularly children under the age of three, with screen time.
“But I think it has a lot of effects on older people. I think it has effects on everybody. Increased isolation, depression, anxiety, addiction, escapism.”
Many politicians use Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to share what essentially amounts to press releases: sterile statements and carefully crafted videos that look like they’ve been signed off by a dozen publicists and policy advisors before seeing the light of day.
In contrast, Ocasio-Cortez’s social media presence is direct and deeply personal. She uses emojis and memes. When right-wing commentators troll her on Twitter, where she has 3.9m followers, she claps right back. On Instagram (3.2m followers), she regularly hosts live Stories, answering questions about politics and her beauty regime as she cooks in her (very normal-looking) kitchen. Most politicians would seem inauthentic if they did all this. But when Ocasio-Cortez does it, it feels real.
However, she’s right to observe that too much social media use can have a negative effect on one’s mental wellbeing. One study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that overall, regular use of Facebook had a negative impact on an individual’s mental health and life satisfaction. Another study, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, found that people who limited their use of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram to 30 minutes a day reported reduced depression and loneliness.
So if you need to take a break from social media, AOC, you do just that. Just don’t leave forever – because we need more clapbacks like these.
Main image: Getty Images