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,
Anyway, the point is to entice you into playing the
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
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
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
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.