It's been months since Donald Trump was banned from social media and Joe Biden was inaugurated into office — gone are the days of opening Twitter and watching in real-time as the U.S. President reminds North Korea he has a nuclear button. Thankfully, Biden has opted to use Twitter in a much tamer way, but some of his social media tactics are still worth wondering about. Namely, how much time do Biden and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris spend walking around the White House?
Since his first week in office, Biden has taken to sharing weekly slow-motion videos of himself, Harris, other politicians, and guests of the administration walking around the White House grounds with purpose. Usually, the videos are paired with captions like "51 days down" or "Another week in the books." In a recent post for Equal Pay Day, he shared a clip of U.S. Women's National Soccer Team athletes Megan Rapinoe and Margaret Purce strolling down a hallway side by side. "Equal Pay Day is a big deal around here," he wrote. "Right, @mPinoe and @100purcent?"
Harris hasn't posted any slow-motion videos, but she's clearly supporting the Administration's social media strategy, usually with images. "It's been a busy few weeks," she wrote in February, alongside a photo of herself walking outside. "Ready for the next one."
It’s unclear why, exactly, the Biden administration has made these kinds of videos so integral to its Twitter brand, especially since they're very easy to mock. Some users have wondered about Harris and Biden's FitBit numbers. Others have sardonically noted that we still don't have broad student debt forgiveness, but at least we have dramatic videos of our President, masked-up and smiling, celebrating another week in office. "Feeling like shit," one person joked. "Could really go for a pic of Kamala & Biden walking down a hallway rn." Or perhaps everyone at the Biden White House is just a big fan of what Vogue's Emma Specter wrote about in a recent article: "the silly little walk," which, she notes, is "good exercise, and its mental health benefits are myriad, but mostly, it’s the perfect way to be alone, together."
According to body language expert Patti Wood, M.A., author of SNAP: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma, Biden's videos signal that he's in control. Take his March 5 video, for example. Wood notes that he's carrying books and binders, indicating how busy he is. "And the funny thing is, even though it's in slow motion, you see his arms move and his shoulders move, so he looks like he's in action," Wood told Refinery29. "See the sweep of his shoulders back and forth, and the swing of the arm. It gives the impression of, 'Wow, he's going so fast and moving so powerfully that we have to slow this down.'"
The slow-motion effect also serves another purpose: It allows viewers to focus on details including Biden's intentional movements, bold suits, and his facial expressions, which are sometimes harder to discern from underneath a mask. Wood, who led training sessions on how to visibly smile above the mask, said that we can usually spot Biden's smile, even though half of his face is covered. "That is his baseline, he smiles quite a bit of the time anyway, and the fact that you can see that above the mask is comforting to us," she explained. "And so in this case, the slowing down of the video allows you to say, 'I think he's smiling,' and then examine it."
Maybe "comfort" is another motive. Much of Biden's campaign — and now, his presidency — hinged on unity and a purported return to normalcy, so it's very possible that these videos are supposed to somehow reassure us that Biden is still hard at work and still determined to let us know every time he's gotten another week down. Make fun of them all you want, but they're something we've come to expect, and the same can't be said about our last President's erratic online habits.
Or maybe, the idea of movement itself is symbolic. "I think part of it is what they're trying to get across, that he's a man of action, he's a man on the move, he's doing things," Wood said. "He's moving forward." Literally.