FACEBOOK AVATAR: But like this photo from his Facebook profile, Edwards MySpace page is a
whole lot of beige.
With the first few presidential primary debates out of the way, we can stop pretending that our vote hinges on the candidates’ positions on Iraq, the economy or healthcare reform and start judging them on a subject more intrinsically related to their potential performance in the Oval Office ― their MySpace and Facebook profiles. The candidates are striving to do something new in hopes of swaying young voters to their platform. And fittingly, their new favorite channel is being provided courtesy of MySpace and MTV.
MySpace and MTV are combining powers to host a series of town-hall style dialogues with the 2008 crop of presidential wannabes on college campuses across the country. Candidates will answer questions submitted in real time by viewers through MySpaceIM, text messages, and emails. The first dialogue is slotted for today, September 27, in New Hampshire with Democratic candidate John Edwards.
But long before these debates were scheduled, the candidates were getting busy on the social networking. But how useful are these sites to voters? We’ve all heard friends complain about the irrationality of judging someone’s character from a one-dimensional representation rather than taking the time to gauge their personality face-to-face and then making an informed decision on the value of their friendship. Or some such nonsense. For the rest of us, Facebook and MySpace represent the easiest and most efficient method of assessing compatibility for a friend, a potential hook-up, or a presidential candidate. So before MTV and MySpace air the upcoming dialogues on MTV and MTVu and webcast them on MySpaceTV and MTV.com, let’s take a few minutes to examine the profiles of the ’08 contenders. Informative? Maybe. Entertaining? Definitely.
We’ll begin in the red corner with former Massachusetts Governor Willard Mitt Romney. Romney notably eschews the “Religious Views” box on his Facebook profile, though he does answer “Mormon” on his MySpace profile. Romney’s activities include “waterskiing” and “horseback riding with my wife” and his interests are “fixing our failing schools” and “winning the war against the jihadists.” Other highlights include a list of his favorite country music performers, an inspiring quote by his father, George Romney, and a four paragraph-long “About Me” section logging nearly every accomplishment in Romney’s business and political career. Following in his family-man campaign theme, his top featured friends on MySpace are his wife, Ann, and his five sons.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani set his privacy settings on MySpace to “timid preteen.” Giuliani’s profile is only visible to people who he accepts as friends on MySpace. I could be wrong but I’m guessing that this isn’t the best technique for recruiting new members to his online campaign, especially while campaigning as strong and accessible. Giuliani declined to make a Facebook profile. Apparently he decided a one-dimensional representation wasn’t better than nothing at all.
The most surprising facet of Senator John McCain’s Facebook profile is that he boasts only 10,824 friends or supporters ― approximately the same amount as a semi-popular 16-year old. Pundits and political prognosticators could have beaten the curve on diagnosing McCain’s faltering bid if they had counted his Facebook friends instead of waiting for his second quarter fundraising reports. Under television, McCain lists 24 as his favorite program. Hmm, McCain a fan of Jack Bauer ― anyone surprised? His MySpace page is a slight improvement with 39,381 friends but the friend count is still comparatively low and dropped nearly 700 in the past month from 40,204. There’s that prescient correlation again. One of McCain’s remaining friends posted on his wall, “hey man! i got the same last name as u.... ur like my 3rd cousin or something like that.” There’s one family reunion not to miss.
On the Democratic side, Illinois Senator Barack Obama boasts far and away the most supporters on Facebook and MySpace and appears to be the favorite among users barely older than his daughters — 6 and 8. More evidence of Obama’s online success is apparent in his second quarter fundraising report. Obama raised approximately $10 million online and 90 per cent of the donations were under $100 and 50 per cent of those were under $25. Obama’s musical appetite ranges from aging counter culture icon Bob Dylan and jazz musicians Miles Davis and Stevie Wonder to the rabble rousing Johann Sebastian Bach and his irrepressible cello suites. His movies read straight from the American Film Institute archives. The classic flicks listed feature stars including Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, an Italian crime family, Jack Nicholson as R.P. McMurphy in an insane asylum, and endless close-ups of Peter O’Toole’s sand-ravaged face and sky blue eyes in Lawrence of Arabia. My only gripe with Obama’s networking skills is that he seems to only join groups with “Barack” and “President” in the name.