That Time When John Kerry Reached Out to Voters on Friendster

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Those were the days.

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Reuters

The year is 2012, and candidates are all but required to have some sort of "social-media strategy." The numbers of followers they've racked up on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram stand as rough barometers of the campaigns' health. But just two presidential election cycles ago, Facebook was only available on a handful of campuses and Twitter and Instagram were years away from existing. Online social networking was all quite new.

In those heady days, one candidate, John Kerry, decided early on in the campaign to embrace the social network of the day: Friendster. The other, George W. Bush, took a more conservative approach. As Bloomberg Businessweek reported in March of 2004:

The informally anointed Democratic candidate for President and the North Carolinian who many experts think could wind up as his running mate [John Edwards] recently joined networking Web site Friendster.com, whose visitors create profiles of themselves and connect with various virtual communities of like-minded people. Friendster, whose 5.5 million registrants are 27 years old, on average, is a logical place to find the young voters that former Vermont Governor Howard Dean attracted to his party until his candidacy ended.

The article goes on to describe the candidates' profiles -- Kerry portraying himself as a fun-loving, Hostess-chocolate-cupcake-eating everyman, and Edwards repeating his well-worn autobiography in the About Me section: "I was born 50 years ago and grew up in a tiny mill village named Robbins, N.C. For nearly 20 years I was a lawyer fighting for people like you against big insurance companies and big corporations."

At least as of the publication of that piece, Bush was yet to create his own Friendster account. Bloomberg Businessweek reported, "President George W. Bush declined an invitation to join. A campaign spokeswoman says Friendster doesn't fit in with his Internet strategy." Later on, however, it seems he did finally jump on the social-networking bandwagon -- by joining MySpace.

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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