Alejandra Sosa wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to get to school. She spends an hour on homework after her classes finish, then heads to a fast food joint, where she works until 9 p.m. After her shift, she stays up late doing the rest of her schoolwork.
But in between all that, the Washington state high school senior runs an Instagram page with nearly 100,000 followers. Sosa’s account, @intersectional.femme — which she launched after the results of the 2016 presidential election left her feeling devastated — features politically charged memes, screenshots of tweets and quotes from famous activists.
“Nobody at my school wanted to form a club with me,” she said. “So I decided to go online.” Sosa, 18, met another teen through Instagram who now helps her run the account.
She posts about three things per day, and each gets thousands of likes and hundreds of comments. Many appear on Instagram’s “Explore” page to help users discover new content.
Cassidy Ward, an 18-year-old high school senior from Missouri, started @Activistbitches for the same reason. It now has a following of over 35,000, and the account page names nine other people who help her run it.
“I was just really upset with the election and what happened surrounding it,” Ward said. “I just kind of wanted a place to let out all of my political anger.”
One interesting aspect of these accounts is that they’re only on Instagram. Building an Instagram audience from scratch can be tough because the platform doesn’t have a built-in repost feature like Facebook and Twitter do. Those social media sites have also traditionally been known for turning activist, argumentative and political, whereas Instagram has been seen as a more positive and artsy. But that’s changing.
“With … [Donald] Trump becoming president, young people became more politically active,” Ward said. “And so, Instagram is becoming more active.”
Sosa said she doesn’t even use her Facebook or Twitter accounts.
“Twitter is kind of confusing, and Facebook I don’t use because my parents do,” she said.
The accounts started by Sosa and Ward aren’t just echo chambers for young liberals. Sosa said her most controversial posts are also her most popular ones, and comment threads can bring young Trump backers into conversation with the biggest cheerleaders for Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“There are good reasons not to let them in,” one person wrote under a recent @intersectional.femme post about the migrant caravans. The comment sparked a full-fledged debate over the merits of immigration, legal or otherwise.
Both young women said they have also had trolls comment on their accounts, which is typical on social media — especially accounts focused on politics. But they said they can essentially ignore the negativity.
“I’d say we receive a lot more love than we do trolls,” Ward said.
I know I look like a teen who is just always online and doesn’t do anything else besides stay in her room and go on social media. I work six days a week. I pay rent where I live. Alejandra Sosa
Being a teenage political instagrammer has also been a bit of a money-making endeavor for Sosa.
“I know I look like a teen who is just always online and doesn’t do anything else besides stay in her room and go on social media,” she said. “I work six days a week. I pay rent where I live.”
And @intersectional.femme helps foot some of those bills. Sosa has partnered with a few “starting up feminist brands” for occasional sponsored content; she charges them $50 per post in her feed and $20 per Instagram Story post.
It’s a bit of an unexpected turn for a project she originally started to express her political frustrations and invite others to do the same.
“My goal was never to have it blow up,” Sosa said. “I wanted to get a group of people to talk and motivate each other.”
And it seems others are certainly motivated. Sosa said starting a political Instagram has led some of her friends and followers to do the same.
“I get a lot of messages, saying, ‘Hey, you inspired me to make an account,’” she said.