When the Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) was uploaded to Twitch at the end of October to play multiplayer game Among us and talking, playing and arguing with users was an inflection point in our society. If you were one of the 400,000 people listening, you witnessed a moment in history. The use of Twitch by AOC and Rep Ilhan Omar, as part of an exit-voting effort, not only altered the relationship between social media and politics, but also reflected a more significant cultural trend: a more broad embrace of authenticity.
Social platforms often haunt politicians. Tweets are almost inevitably threaded with criticism and one-off remarks that turn into toxic black holes. This only feeds into the existing negativity that we feel towards our government, with a 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center stating that less than 20% of people expressed confidence in the federal government. For millennials and millennials, many of whom can’t remember an era of politics without social media, these numbers are in decline even more, fueling a perception among youth of politics as an inaccessible and outdated system, overly scripted and out of touch with the average American.
Social media fatigue and loss of community on applications such as Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat have made the possibility of logging in even more futile. Platforms that were once conducive to conversation and engagement now feel editorialized, competitive and combative.
AOC and Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, did not use Twitch to lecture or gather; they played a popular virtual game that has taken the internet by storm. Rather than expecting Gen Z voters to come to a political rally or campaign event and listen to them speak, AOC met them on their terms and let them know that she understood them and their community. The two congressmen understood how the platform promotes dialogue and uses the benefits of live streaming to send messages without force and ultimately boost their credibility.
In recent weeks, AOC has vocal summer on the effectiveness of using online platforms and campaign tools that allow legislators to actually meet their constituents where they are. Openly criticizing the lack of digital and online campaign strategies in some Democratic campaigns, AOC recognized the importance of having a presence on new media. These platforms allow politicians to engage in dialogue, understand the reality of the people they represent and deliver messages in forums where voters actually listen.
The nature of live streaming leaves no room for performative engagement, only for real conversations. AOC used Twitch to open up to three and a half hours of fluid dialogue where everything could be said and nothing was being picked up. On Twitch, AOC validated their own point: Only when politicians have a competent online presence – on live streams or other new social media platforms – will they understand what topics and posts are the most popular. most important to address.
Although Democrats and Republicans debate how to invest in digital platforms, the case for live streaming and more candid forms of communication is strong for both sides. Live streams are among the few remaining platforms that don’t push curation and vanity, but rather thrive on the opposite: authenticity. There is a stereotype that people use live streaming platforms to play video games or perform for an audience in one-way interaction. In reality, however, live streaming requires two-way engagement, with viewers sharing their opinions in real time with the creators.
In the nearly four hours AOC spent playing with other players, from novices to veterans, her audience grew because she understood that in live streaming you can’t hide. To be successful and fully engage with users, streamers need to open up and be honest. Live streaming doesn’t work if a streamer can’t effectively foster connection and build community. Ultimately, this is what will stimulate the political engagement of the younger generations.
In recent months, live streaming has served as a legitimate source of human connection. Generation Z is the loneliest generation, and social media has made them more lonely and isolated. What live streaming platforms like Twitch, Spoon, IGTV and others have understood is that they provide something Gen Z needs: community. In a recent survey of users of Spoon, the platform I work for, 60% identified as Gen Z, and of those, 95% said they found a community on the platform. Even in childhood, the platform was already building safe spaces for people to log on by nature to be a live streaming site.
While it is not every day that one of the most famous politicians uses live streaming to play a game, what is becoming more and more common is the use of these platforms to reach out to people. new people and make new friends. As we see other social media platforms fade away for the younger generations, live streams will flourish for their ability to inspire real, authentic communities. Now politicians just need to understand the value of being present in the media where they perform.
Fernando Pizarro is vice president of North America for Spoon, a live audio streaming application with nearly 3 million users worldwide.
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