Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It started out innocently enough.

I’m on the board of a non-profit organization, and we were looking into some viral marketing options that would appeal to the cool kids without breaking our budget. We wanted something relevant, fun and sticky that would make maximum splash with minimum cost. Something that said, “Hey! We’re down with you kids, yo. Word!”

Then one of the cooler kids on the board mentioned MySpace. He said people post profiles and pictures and other related stuff there like on Friendster, but it’s wackier and more interactive. He said bands and movies and other non-profits regularly put up profiles and get people to link to them, and that as long as their profiles are fun and clever nobody seems to mind that they’re being marketed to.

So I thought I should check out this MySpace. I should educate myself about trends in e-marketing. I should keep my finger on what’s pulsating in today’s youth. (I hope that last sentence didn’t come out wrong.)

So I put up a profile last week and started clicking around. At first, nobody even noticed me. Then I found a few friends of mine and linked my profile to theirs. But still: yawn. No traffic. No interaction. No fun.

Then I clicked around some more, and I discovered what all the really popular profiles had in common: Recipes. Folk-song lyrics. Pictures of Rush Limbaugh making out with Pat Robertson. SKIN.

And it all suddenly became clear to me. I had taken that picture of me in my shorty-short running shorts* for a reason: to post on MySpace, solely in the interest of market research. The day I put it on my profile, I went from six friend links to 36. Of course, I don’t know half of my new friends. But they’re hot! And they show skin too! So we share the bond of shameless self-promotion! BFF!

*I lost my nerve on those shorty-short running shorts, by the way, and I took them back. (Without ever running in them, just for the record.) I just didn’t think at my age I could pull them off. I mean I could physically pull them off—they weren’t stapled on or anything—but even after five months of 225-lb squats and oceans of water-packed tuna for dinner I still felt more than a little ridiculous in them. I’d rather have people say Hey! I bet he’d look hot in shorty-short running shorts! than Wow. He’s way too old be running around in a skirted mankini. But I still don’t want to do another marathon in just-above-the-knee shorts, which tend to bunch up when I run as though they were being eaten alive by my ravenous mangina:
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Unfortunately, my only other running-shorts option—upper-mid-thigh length—tends to look like a wrap-around tennis skirt on my hips, but I’m holding out hope that I can still find something in that family that doesn’t turn me into Billie Jean King: The Musical.

Where was I? Oh, yes: keeping my finger on the kids. Or something like that.

So MySpace is totally more fun than a bucket of wet kittens, but it does have a few features I find more irritating than Karl Rove in corduroy pants.

Example! You can rig your profile to play your favorite song the moment people click on you. But I don’t want to hear people’s stupid favorite songs; I’m clicking on them to see if they have any shirtless pix conduct very important market research. Besides, it totally slows down my computer. And even when I go in and tell MySpace I don’t want to hear people’s stupid favorite songs, it still plays their stupid favorite songs for me anyway. Love on the rocks! Ain’t no big surprise. Just pour me a drink and I’ll tell you my lies …

One more example! You can somehow (I have not figured out how just yet) put giant pictures of whatever you want in the background of your profile. Which sounds like a good idea in theory, until the background pictures get so busy you can’t even read the profiles (some of which are pretty clever, though many are painfully not) or find the links to add random hot guys people you have known and loved for years as your MySpace friends.

Final example! MySpace is like heroin. I have lost serious amounts of what could have been productive (e.g., laundry-folding, vacuuming, etc.) time clicking around on it. But who cares if my socks are wrinkled! I have hot shirtless friends! I’m on MySpace! I’m down with the kids, yo! Word!

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