Roxanne Qualls must really believe that name recognition is going to win her a seat on the 2008 Cincinnati City Council. She has only 195 MySpace friends.
Qualls' profile on myspace.com, the most popular social networking Web site on the Internet, states that the 54-year-old single Pisces enjoys the Bourne Identity movie series, biking and "REALLY bad golf!"
Most individual MySpace profiles include such necessary personal information as TV and movie interests, religion, sexual orientation and links to "MySpace friends," other users linked together through an extensive web of faux social interaction. It's become a popular tool for grassroots organizations and independent musicians, who use the site for cheap and convenient networking.
This year some city council candidates are using it as a campaign tool, but few are all that popular in Interland.
Of the seven candidates who have MySpace profiles as of Oct. 19, only John Cranley has accumulated more than 200 friends. His 238 friends represent a sizable lead over Qualls, whose 195 friends is considerably ahead of Greg Harris' 120.
The rest of the field is pretty pathetic. Chris Bortz (42 friends), John Eby (38), George Zamary (38) and Joan Kaup (26) seem to have failed at maintaining a popular Internet persona.
The biggest mistake one can make with his or her MySpace page is to take it too seriously. Providing the public with a survey based on what you think of yourself can easily come across as an embarrassing combination of arrogance and ignorance.
And even though we might enjoy the publicly viewable Internet attention, we must also make fun of ourselves for participating in MySpace's contrived presentation of who we are. While political candidates are generally understood to be self-promotional, they can't be given a free pass when they pose as one of our down-to-earth Internet buddies.
Qualls' bio lists some of her many public and private accolades and also describes her interest in meeting "voters and supporters to help Cincinnati reach its potential as a world-class city." One of Qualls' photos shows her spray-painting on a wall while other people watch.
Harris presents a photo of himself standing next to everyone's favorite uninsured governor, Ted Strickland, and Harris also has a Paypal donation button on his page for convenient financial supporting. But his YouTube video doesn't work, and one of his "Top Friends" is a girl I used to date -- and that ain't cool, man.
Bortz's "About Me" section is an extensive list of his positions and responsibilities on numerous committees, boards and commissions, which make him seem quite important and productive. He apparently championed the streetcar feasibility study -- research crucial to determining how many new coffee shops the city can open downtown with a $100 million investment.
Eby offers a minute-and-a-half speech by way of YouTube, during which he describes how the current council did most of the things he said he would do if he were elected two years ago. This leads one to wonder why we actually need him in office.
Kaup provides a photo slideshow and two YouTube videos, one of which is a dated clip in which she says that Over-the-Rhine is an eminent artists community. Zamary's page plays a song by Rusted Root, which explains why he wrote a blog post Aug. 11 describing how excited he was to see three dudes playing Frisbee at the corner of 12th and Vine.
What our potential city leaders severely lack is the faux-social interaction that's made MySpace so popular. These candidates have few public comments from their Internet friends, which shows that they simply aren't giving enough effort.
You have to give attention to receive it on MySpace, and these candidates don't seem to be working the network hard enough.
Zamary has zero comments, and Bortz's only sign of attention is a happy birthday wish from a goateed man named Scott. The only candidate who has been mildly popular with Internet friends is Cranley, whose 29 comments used to range from "watched your debate and loved it" to "hi, you gotta look at this astonishing game for making your own south park guy."
Cranley has since deleted all of his friends except for Tom, the Web site's automatic friend.
With less than a week until the election, every campaign should be hard at work to secure those last few votes, and it's time for the serious candidates to get back in the MySpace game.
Here are some commonly-used tactics for attracting MySpace interest: publish saucy photos of yourself; use Google to find pictures of the Kansas University football coach and post them on your friends' pages; and do whatever you can to make fun of yourself -- it'll make it less easy for the rest of us. ©