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Pranking the MySpace Presidential Campaign Trail

Check out my comments section: Clinton and Obama are close personal friends of mine.

Mike Gravel is the Democratic presidential candidate most hungry for your friendship. Chris Dodd comes close; he's so desperate, he'll thank you for being his friend. "Thanks for the add," Chris'll say, dropping off a photograph of himself looking like a guy from a hemorrhoid ad before disappearing deep into the Connecticut night. But Dennis Kucinich, he'll take the time to get to know you. If you say, "Hey, Kuch, guess what televisions shows I like, you old Mayor of Cleveland from 1978-1979, you. I like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report," guess what Kuch will do? He'll write you a note that says, "Rock on, man, wooo! Daily Show and Colbert!" Because Kuch is down, as the kids say. He know what time it is.

And how do I know this? How am I so intimately acquainted with the social habits of these esteemed wannabe leaders of the United States of America? The same way people in this generation know anything about anyone: MySpace.

Several months back, while engaging in one of my 376 daily log-ins to the social-networking website to see the weirdest places my friends have slept/how long it takes them to get ready for school, I noticed a new feature called "Impact: Prez Focus," blatantly hyping various presidential candidates. Every time I refreshed the page, there was a different candidate, poised and ready for me to get to know them in all sorts of wacky Internet ways. I can't say I was surprised by this cyber-stumping. That slew of pay-attention-America-this-MySpace-is-a-relevant-force articles was so early 2006. Duh: MySpace is an easy way to reach millions. Duh, I say!

But I couldn't help but wonder just who was running these pages and how effectively they were running them. I couldn't imagine Barack Obama up late at night, dimly lit by a desk lamp, cleaning his giant ears with four Q-tips taped together and leaving a comment for Jessica, the thirteen-year-old from Phoenix who just dropped by to tell him she's saving her hymen for Zac Efron. So I decided to get some answers by setting up a fake MySpace page and getting friendly with the candidates. I named my MySpace identity Roderick McClain because I already had a gmail account set up under that name, which I use for purposes that I cannot get into here (kiddie porn). For Roderick's picture, I used a photograph of my roommate, Monty, figuring that in the event the FBI monitored this bizarre web experiment and decided Roderick had gone too far, they'd haul Monty off to Gitmo instead of me.

Now all I had to do was build Roderick McClain's personality. I wanted him to be everyman, but not too everyman. Political, but not too political. Clever, but not too clever. Because I wanted the candidates to want Roderick. I wanted them to see in him a possible vote, but not one that was guaranteed — a young man looking for answers, looking for leaders, a young man out there in MySpace land yearning to be swayed. I made Roderick's profile headline "Be the change," because any Democrats worth their weight in liberal guilt can't resist a Gandhi quote.

Kuch, Gravel and Dodd fell fast. They all accepted my friendship the day I proposed the union (Gravel in under an hour). Bill Richardson took me on the following day, as did Hillary. Yet with only five candidates in tow, I was already regretting my project. Because if you thought your friends bulletining their weekly DJ nights was annoying (Patrick), you haven't hung with the candidates. News of debates, television appearances, blogs, vlogs and polls flooded my page. I couldn't read one before another appeared, exclamation points abounding like some sort of hysterical politico shriekfest. Hillary was the absolute worst. So I decided to tell her so. And here's what you need to know about Hillary's MySpace persona: She won't allow you to message her, but she will allow you to leave comments. And she doesn't remove them.

"Hi, Hillary," Rod posted on her page. "You are leading the pack for me in terms of who's my favorite candidate. And I know you are running a campaign and everything, but I have to say, the bulletins are getting to be a bit much. Every day it's a bulletin about this with Hillary, a bulletin about that with Hillary, check out Hillary on this debate, look at the size of the swordfish Hillary caught. Enough. I ran for treasurer at the University of Colorado at Denver, and you know how many bulletins I sent out? One. I didn't win, but whatever. Who wants to annoy people? So anyway, don't mean to be rude, just think you might not be up on your MySpace etiquette, and I don't want you to annoy potential voters. Hugs, Rod."

This comment remains on her page to this day. Initially, I was proud of this fact, like I had impressed Hillary — or at least her Wesleyan-bound intern — enough to keep my whimsical comment afloat. But when I noticed that the guy who merely wrote "Hillary is a dyke" 200 times had similar staying power, I realized that perhaps this site was not as well-monitored as I thought. So Rod commented again.

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