• September 2, 2014

From Twitter to Tumblr: On Student Loans, Obama Seeks an Audience

When President Obama wants to send a message to America's 20-somethings, he often speaks through their preferred channel—online media. For example, when Mr. Obama sought to urge younger adults to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, he sat for an interview on the cult, Internet-only talk-show parody Between Two Ferns.

A topic that has taken up a large portion of the administration's social-media activity is, predictably, one that disproportionately affects young Americans: student-loan debt. On Tuesday, Mr. Obama will host a student-loan Q&A on the blogging site Tumblr. It's the latest in a long line of tweets, Google hangouts, and Reddit AMAs. Here's a brief history:

Like many politicians today, Mr. Obama has used social media primarily for their broadcasting power. In 2012, as interest rates on Stafford loans were set to double, Mr. Obama told students to tweet with the hashtag #DontDoubleMyRate in an effort to spur Congressional action. It resulted in tweets like this:

Lawmakers did vote to preserve the low interest rates for Stafford loans, but one year later the rates were set to double again. The administration returned to familiar ground:

But Mr. Obama is also known for using social media to give his message a personal touch. In 2012 he sat for a Reddit AMA, an open-forum, question-and-answer session ("AMA" stands for "Ask Me Anything").

Student-loan debt came up quickly, and Mr. Obama opined in long form.

In a 2012 Google+ hangout, which is a video chatroom, Mr. Obama touted his accomplishments on college affordability and stressed the importance of postsecondary education:

As part of a Twitter Q&A held that same year to oppose a $2,000 increase in middle-class tax cuts, Mr. Obama told one user (in a slightly cramped fashion) that the cuts would help her even though she was a recent graduate without a full-time job:

The White House has a Tumblr page, but until now it has been used mostly as a clearinghouse for behind-the-scenes photographs and quirky .gifs from inside the White House.

Follow the Q&A, which starts at 4 p.m., here.

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