Thefacebook.com has taken on a life of its own on college campuses around the country, strapping students to their computers for hours upon end to chat, bond and establish connections of any kind with others of the like. But what if there was a catch: what if it were an option to sell friends for prettier, smarter, cleverer ones…would you do it?
Here's another catch: what if there were prizes involved?
What if it were possible to mingle with models and pre-med majors, all while wearing your pajamas?
Think: thefacebook and HOTorNOT.com combine traits and mesh into an egotistical, devilish online game where one can sell friends for hotter, smarter and more clever ones. Buying friends at three for 99 cents and compiling good-looking groups earns prizes such as: T-Mobile Sidekicks (like the one Paris Hilton had that got hacked into), iPods and Jimmy Choo shoes (worth up to $800.) Well, one can do this all at Catch27.com.
E. Jean Carroll, contributing editor and advice columnist for ELLE magazine, created it as a mockery of thefacebook.com. As an advice columnist with over 11 years of experience, Carroll was receiving letters upon letters relating to trends of women trading men in real life. She logged on and noticed uninteresting profiles like ones asking about favorite ice creams and favorite colors
"Jesus, I thought!" Carroll said. "It was boring."
That's when she produced the idea of Catch27, as a "spoof facebook." The Web site allows people to create their own profile with questions like "How I lost it," and "Sin I'd like to try." The Web site is free to join and purchasing friends is not a requirement.
"It's astounding," Carroll said, who also determines who gets the prizes. "I never thought it would take off."
Prizes are determined by who can make a "HotPack27,"where everyone in your group, or pack, has something common, like all their belly buttons are exposed. With no guidelines, Carroll can pick anything she deems worthy.
Lindsey Johnson, director of campus public relations for Catch27 and a Stanford graduate, noticed the same about thefacebook.com and said it is used like an unentertaining resource.
"It's like an address book and it's too policed," Johnson said.
Created this past October, Catch27 began reeling in young professionals and intriguing Harvard, Stanford and Yale undergraduates, such as Johnson, and took on a life of its own.
"Just like popularity in real life, it's how popular you are, how fast your car is, how fashionable you are and how hot you are," she said. "It's the reality of the social world. Just like the categories on the site, it's all very real and we're mocking it."
The site has nine categories, including: brains, freaks, geeks, jocks … etc. The Web site is easy to maneuver and one can read people's profiles, designed like personal trading cards, without joining.
Carroll describes a Catch27 scenario: "You and five of your friends are hanging out with each other at a bar. A hot guy walks in and you are forced to pick between them. You're going to trade your friends in for the guy!"
When an ideal catch is spotted, all that must be done is enter credit card information, and the card belongs to the buyer. The next step means sending the person a wiretap to let them know you own them.
"It's a way to say 'I own your ass. You're mine," Carroll said. "It's just funny."
Catch27 is doubling its popularity every month and spreading by word-of-mouth, but its numbers are not released.
"Let's put it this way: I'm lying on the floor losing consciousness," Carroll explained of her growing venture.
Veterans of thefacebook are beginning to hear of the new, atypical challenger in the online world of mingling.
Danielle Bradlee, a freshman speech communication major and facebook.com member, thinks Catch27 won't catch on like thefacebook has at CSU.
"As a college kid, I don't have any money to be spending on Internet friends," Bradlee said. "Buying friends seems pointless. It creates cultural ideas of looks being all that matters, also creates a competition of looks and having good-looking friends."
Nathan Wheeler, a freshman music major, said as long as it's entertaining and doesn't become serious, then Web sites based on socializing are a good thing.
"I'm afraid people will get carried away and it will become a huge moneymaking endeavor," Wheeler said. "It's a way to suck people into perpetuating the materialism ideals of our society."
But Carroll said it works because the kids are smart, cute and hot. The more interesting the individual is, the more people buy the card and the more traded it becomes, and the more that individual is in value.
"It's like the stock market, it goes up and down in value," Carroll said.
Catch27 is not all fun and games, however. With the money used to purchase people, 27 percent of donations will go to a charity that has yet to be determined.