Crissa and Johnny: friends forever
Join Friendster.com, and you too can be pals with John Kerry
I’m so popular. In fact, I’d say I’m more popular than anyone in Reno ever, maybe. Bold claim, I know, but are any of you friends with John Kerry? How about Ralph Nader? I am. I know one of John’s favorite movies is Old School, and I even have my own personal picture of my Johnny enjoying himself on the waves, his bronzed, rippling muscles glistening in the tangy sea air and his peppered, full locks of silken hair blowing behind him.
Friendster.com is an online community that seemingly tries to duplicate a third-grade playground. A user can view other users’ information (including location, favorite books, music and interests), approach them via the most personal correspondence medium of today’s society (e-mail, of course), and ask, “Will you be my friend?”
Once a friendship is established, people can write testimonials about their friends for everyone to view, or they can communicate quietly with private messages.
The MTV-generation online community has become a common tool for political candidates, allowing voters to see a side of the candidates other than the fake smiles and rhetoric portrayed on TV. Among the Xena Warrior Princesses and the Elvises (online user names) are users who could be responsible for the future of America.
Lisa Cobb, spokesperson for Friendster.com, said that every Democratic candidate was a member during the primaries.
“Kerry’s profile is totally real,” said Cobb. “We spoke with all the candidates back in the winter, and we helped them all do it. We reached out to Bush’s office, too, but he declined.”
Of course, there are many George W. Bush and Dick Cheney profiles among the Star Wars personae users, but the prez and vice-prez have not approved these messages.
Cobb said Friendster.com is a useful tool for politicians to reach out to voters. She said Johnny (who is her friend as well) usually sends out bulletins on a daily basis to keep people informed. Personally, I haven’t received any bulletins from my buddy Johnny, but I suppose he’s been a busy man. In fact, he’s been so busy he and his campaign must not have had time to return any of my calls or e-mails regarding his use of Friendster.com. Some friend.
“Kerry uses it to spread information to his supporters, and people link to him to show their support or find out more about him,” Cobb said. “I think, from what we’ve seen, it’s going to be a close election. Every vote counts. When you’re getting a trusted referral from a friend, or a friend of a friend, it’s more trustworthy than a 30-second commercial. The weight of the voices of people you know is better than when it comes from someone anonymous.”
While Howard Dean and Al Sharpton have faded from my possible group of friends, the remains of what could have been a perfect friendship is still available on a Friendster.com search; you can still find a smiling Dean face, although the link to his profile has been disconnected. Cobb said John Edwards’ account was very active before he dropped out of the primary election, but she suspects he’ll be using it more now that he’s Kerry’s running mate.
My Johnny and I have been friends now for several weeks, but Edwards and Dennis Kucinich seem to me to be antisocial bastards, as they haven’t accepted my desperate pleas for friendship. Ralph-o is also a good friend of mine, but it turns out his profile’s about as real as that of Smurfette.
Kevin Zeese, Ralph Nader’s spokesperson, said that while he approves of the help, the Nader campaign had nothing to do with my friend Ralph’s profile.
“I don’t think Ralph has used e-mail in his life,” Zeese said. “I think it’s great to spread information, but we just use the Web site and e-mail [as tools to help the campaign].”
While I am the only Friendster in Reno hip enough to be friends with Johnny (since Crissa wrote this story, Kerry has acquired one more Reno friend), he has 3,903 friends throughout the world. Former Reno resident Ian Baker and Las Vegas resident Stephen Adriel Arimado are two of the thousands who are as rad as I am.
My new friend Baker has been a Friendster.com participant since October and said he uses it more to kill time than to meet people.
“Some folks we met at Burning Man turned us on to [Friendster.com],” Baker said. “Kerry has been my friend since shortly after Dean dropped out. I caucused for Dean up here and was his ardent supporter … sigh.”
Baker said that while Kerry’s Friendster.com profile has not affected how he will vote, it does help to humanize my Johnny.
“By being game enough to let his aides put his profile on Friendster.com, Kerry appears more human than his monstrous opponent,” Baker said. “The testimonials are where it’s at: average people expressing their hopes for him, their encouragement. Now if Kerry’d write some testimonials for me, why, I’d vote twice as emphatically for him.”
Friendster.com appears to be the perfect demographic for political advertising, as it requires users to be at least 18 years of age. The age requirement doesn’t seem all too effective, however, as those clever minors have figured out that they only need to go through the difficult task of clicking the continue button with the wrong year listed in the birthday slot. Arimado is one of these.
Sixteen-year-old Arimado has been a Friendster.com member since October-ish, as well. He heard about the online community from his friends at school. He said he mostly uses Friendster.com to keep in touch with old friends and to meet new ones. He’s been a Johnny buddy since early this year.
“I added Kerry on my list about late February,” Arimado said. “Kerry visited Vegas and held a pre-caucus meeting at Valley High School, where I go to school. As a new immigrant, I got curious and went to attend the meeting.”
Arimado said he knew of my Johnny since he—Arimado, that is—lived in the Philippines, but he discovered that Johnny was “a very cool guy” only since he found his Friendster.com account.
“His hobbies and activities are also the same to many young voters,” he said. “I’ve never seen political persons ski or do parasailing or wind-surf.”
Arimado said Johnny’s Friendster.com profile definitely improves the Kerry campaign, even though he knows it’s only a small portion of voters who use Friendster.com.
“It makes Kerry’s image better to the ordinary American person as very approachable, cool, open and liberal,” Arimado said.
Whether a Friendster.com account will help any candidates win voters, I can’t say. But what I do know is that my buddy Johnny likes some kick-ass movies and Hostess cupcakes. It’s like our friendship was meant to be.