AOC: 'Social media poses a public health risk to everybody'

Produced by Mark Seman & Anthony Kane

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who rocketed to prominence because of her social media savvy, also acknowledges that social media platforms pose a “public health risk to everybody.”

In an interview with the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast on Sunday, the 29-year-old said she has even given up on Facebook.

“I personally gave up Facebook, which was kind of a big deal because I started my campaign on Facebook. And Facebook was my primary digital organizing tool for a very long time. I gave up on it,” said Ocasio-Cortez, whose campaign still has an account on the social media platform but who mostly uses Instagram and Twitter to connect with her followers.

“Social media poses a public health risk to everybody,” she continued. “There are amplified impacts for young people, particularly children under the age of 3, 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.”

Facebook, Twitter and other tech giants have faced growing criticisms of their platforms around public safety. Last week, their executives met on Capitol Hill for a House Judiciary Committee hearing scrutinizing the spread of white nationalism and hate speech through social media platforms. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has offered a wide-ranging plan to address the excessive power wielded by the internet giants. And media critics and journalism groups are developing programs to help Americans better distinguish what is real news from what is fake on social media.

Ocasio-Cortez, who said she writes all her tweets and Instagram posts, said 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.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez looks at her phone. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez looks at her phone. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Despite helping her rise, Ocasio-Cortez’s social media presence has been the source of attacks on her maturity. When a video of her dancing as a college student emerged after she’d been elected — and was wielded by critics as proof of her inexperience — she responded by posting a video of herself dancing in her office on Capitol Hill.

Still, Ocasio-Cortez said she’s taken steps to cut down on social media and take care of herself.

“I've started to kind of impose little rules on myself,” she told Yahoo News. “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. 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.

“It takes a lot to kind of try and unwind other habits,” she explained.


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