Pat Ryan’s Instagram fan page takes off after special election

In June 2020, two best friends, then 16, were bored beyond the COVID lockdown and spending eight hours a day together on FaceTime. Somehow, in the frenzy of these endless conversations, they decided to create an Instagram fan account for Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan. They called him

Never mind that they can’t even vote. The fan account was a weird, pandemic-fueled BFF political art project — a private joke made public.

“We’re Gen Z. There’s all these fan accounts for big celebrities and we were like, what about this local politician,” said Delilah Smith, who is from Boiceville. (Yes, they come from politically active families.)

Smith’s friend, now a political studies student, prefers to remain anonymous. She is from Kingston, where she frequently saw Ryan in town.

“He was doing so much community work at the start of the pandemic. It was wonderful to see,” she said. “So many politicians don’t do that. He’s just like a really normal person.

The Instagram page was mostly for laughs. Many photos of Ryan are edited with text bubbles and words like “I’m yours”, “I love you” and “Good things take time”. Digitally drawn hearts and absurd humor infused with their friendship abound. Although a message says they have a crush on Ryan, they say they don’t “respectfully”.

“We were like, this is really kind of weird. It’s basically hilarious,” Smith said with a laugh.

Friends laugh a lot.

Daniel Torres, Ulster County deputy assistant manager, also appears on the fan page, with and without his boss. Friends adorned it with flower petals and fun words (“you are the light”). Several particularly bizarre posts show Ryan holding a baby (presumably his own), but the baby’s head has been replaced with Torres’s. The original photo was sent to the account via DM by a follower with the message “Lowkey disappointed this hasn’t been featured yet.”

This photo still makes them laugh, but they say all of their posts are well-meaning. “We never make fun of them. If we didn’t agree with their political views, we wouldn’t be doing this,” Smith said.

The fan page hijinks lasted about a month; it went inactive on July 6, 2020. Then, a few days ago, just before the special election, a new post appeared featuring Ryan on a pink and lavender background dotted with hearts. He’s wearing a floral headband, Snapchat filter style, and the image reads, “Don’t forget to vote for Pat Ryan for Congress.”

Smith, now 18, was set to vote for the first time – for Ryan. “He’s definitely pretty cool compared to who he was running,” she said. “It was the perfect time to bring him back.”

Turns out Instagram was hungry for Pat Ryan content. “We had a 62,200% increase in views over the past week,” Smith said. While the page hasn’t seen such a big jump in its (modest) following, Smith says Instagram data shows the page hit 623 accounts this week, up from 14 last month. “I was shocked. We got so many reposts on other people’s stories.

And not just recent posts either. Instagram users are going back to fan page archives and reposting from 2020, including one of Ryan’s faces on the red balls outside Target with the words “What if we vibed on Target balls”.

On Election Day, Smith posted an edited photo of his polling station — Olive Fire Department — with Ryan’s smiling face floating in a rainbow above.

“It was really weird and also amazing to see someone I created a fan account for on my ballot,” she said. Her best friend was unable to vote in the special election but will turn 18 in time to vote for Pat Ryan in November. The duo plan to update the fan count a few times a week leading up to Election Day “whenever inspiration strikes.”

Friends never wanted parodying celebrity fan accounts to help get the vote, but if it did, it would be “awesome.” Also awesome, they say, is that Torres liked two of their most recent posts, including one celebrating Ryan in a crown with the text, “If the crown fits you, wear it.”

Smith’s favorite post to date is a video of Ryan and Torres’ heads flashing against a blue background with two gray cats over a slowed-down version of the song “Just the Two of Us.”

“It’s my magnum opus, just because what does it mean? I do not know. I liked it so much I put a QR code on it on my directory page,” Smith said.

Torres and Congressman-elect Ryan declined to be interviewed on the fan’s account.

As for Smith’s friend, the biggest thrill since the launch of walked down the street in Kingston and said hello to Pat Ryan and “knowing he won’t to know. It’s the funniest thing in the world to me.

“We’re just teenagers,” Smith added. “It’s really funny.”

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