You know how I do that thing where I take some earnest but misguided piece of marketing and make it sound ridiculous? Well, words fail:
So let’s see. The world is a war-torn, post-apocalyptic battleground, ruled by oppressive “corporate lords.” But one guy can “restore the soul of mankind” by designing the packaging for a soda.
Because that makes too much sense, there’s also an inexplicable ride with a native American guy in an elevator who seems to successfully encourage the hero to commit suicide. The hero skateboards everywhere for no reason except, I guess, that marketing people think cool people do that. Oh, and the movie is from Pepsi, for Mountain Dew, which you might have thought was a corporation, and thus a bad guy in this scenario, but… uh…
Anyway, the point is to entice you into playing the DEWmocracy online game, where you can team up with other players to “design the flavor, color, name, and graphics” of a drink. Mountain Dew will then launch a “recognizably similar” version of the most popular result in 2008.
Other online games promise battles with dragons or storm troopers, but only DEWmocracy lets you enter the heart-pounding virtual world of Mountain Dew’s marketing department. I assume that missions include “Unjam The Copy Machine,” “Get That Last Parking Space,” or “Battle of the PowerPoint Presentations,” with your character choosing a class like “Intern” or “Direct Sales Representative” and working his way up to the feared “Executive Vice-President.”
If this takes off, maybe the next thrilling virtual ride could take you into a bottling factory, where you spend eight hours a day inspecting caps for defects. One thing’s for sure: Mountain Dew has finally responded to all those people clamoring to work for it for no pay.
It turns out, though, that when it comes time to design your drink in DEWmocracy, all you can do is pick from a pre-selected range of options. This was getting suspicious: first they warned me evil corporations would try to stamp out my creativity, and here I was confronted with a corporation trying to reduce creativity to pick-a-box as part of a marketing effort. Aha! Clearly I was meant to reject DEWmocracy as an attempt to control the population, and go firebomb Pepsi’s offices. Yes?
I caved in and signed up to Facebook. I never had a problem avoiding MySpace, because every MySpace I’ve ever seen was clearly designed by a hyperventilating color-blind monkey. And the monkey had no idea about HTML standards. But Facebook looked nice, so I went ahead and created a profile.
I wasn’t sure I should be doing this, since I already have way too much unanswered e-mail. I don’t really need any new avenues for people to get disappointed when I don’t reply to them. But then I saw a Facebook group called “Max Barry is fricken awesome.” That was a big plus for me. There’s just something about a group of people telling me I’m fricken awesome that makes me think, “These guys are all right.”
At first my goal was simple: I would jump on this bandwagon and friend up anyone who asked. Facebook: put up my face, maybe sell some book. Made sense. But then I discovered it’s pretty cool to see what your friends are up to on Facebook. I felt like I was being social, but without any effort. That was nice. Maybe, I thought, I should keep this just for friends and family.
Then I realized my friends and family are boring. Day One, sure, it was crazy: Brit was pregnant, Dan had a new job, and that girl I liked in high school was now an architect. There was a lot to catch up on. But a few days later, Brit was still pregnant, Dan still had the new job, and the girl was still an architect. Where was the progression? The twists and turns? It was like a soap opera where nothing happened, and I received email notifications of every non-event.
The other problem was I had friend requests piling up. It became hard to know where to draw the line: did someone I’d only met once on book tour qualify as a friend? What about someone I’d only emailed? What if I’d never heard of them before, but they listed me in their profile as one of their favorite authors, and they were incredibly hot? Well, obviously that one was an easy decision. But the others: tough. On top of that, I accidentally friended one guy by clicking the wrong button, and another because I thought he was someone else. The walls had been breached.
So I decided to go friend whoring. My new policy would be: I’m anyone’s. I accepted every friend request I had, and searched out new ones. I know: I felt kind of dirty. But then I realized it was pretty nice to have a page of links to people who liked my books. Some of my actual so-called friends have never even bothered to crack the spine on one, and I still turn up to their kids’ birthday parties, the selfish bastards. The parents, I mean. The kids are lovely. What’s that about?
Maybe these people I’d never met were more deserving of social recognition than people I met face-to-face. They had read something of mine that mattered enough to them to affect their lives, or at least their Facebook profile. Wasn’t that something? Wasn’t that a connection—a meeting of minds? Yes, I decided; yes it was.