musk on monday tweeted a photo from his bedside table, which held an odd array of items, including two replica pistols that didn’t fire, a Buddhist amulet, and… four opened cans of caffeine-free Diet Coke.
At least in its apparent affinity for calorie-free cola, it’s in great company. Even those of us who never drink it know Diet Coke People. This is a tribe whose allegiance to the product goes beyond brand loyalty and to something deeper. Of course, there are other ways people organize their identities around a preference for one thing over another: sports fans, perhaps, or people with those Yeti stickers on their trucks. But Diet Coke drinkers differ in that they usually constantly engage with their beloved aspartame-sweetened potion. Many drink all day, every day, from cans or empty bottles piling up on their desks and (like Musk) on their bedside.
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Diet Coke’s profile has been up and down since its introduction in 1982. It has survived the four decades since, from its designation as Hollywood’s “in” quaff, to the rise of the bottled water, through its association of “mom drink”. Even now, its packaging defies the trend away from products labeled as “diet” (currently preferred nomenclature is “zero sugar”) and concerns about its health effects (a New York Times article the year The latest on a former drug addict was titled “I Was Helpless Over Diet Coke”). His can was briefly slimmed down to better appeal to millennials; he’s now returned to his normal form.
In 2018, The New Yorker stuck a fork in the Diet Coke phenomenon, citing as evidence its unsavory cronies, including former President Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein. It is, the magazine said, “the elixir of soft-bodied plutocrats desperate to shed their shady pasts and, perhaps, a few pounds.”
Yet the cult persists, with fans on Facebook and Reddit sharing photos of their full fridges and Mormon moms on TikTok showing off their “dirty” versions spiked with lime and coconut syrup.
Musk has already proclaimed his love for the drink. “Diet Coke is amazing, especially the soda fountain version in theaters with salt and butter popcorn,” he tweeted in June, going on to say he didn’t care “if it reduced my life expectancy. And in April, he tweeted his plan to restore the drink’s original formula:
Then I buy Coca-Cola to put the cocaine back in
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 28, 2022
In a 2007 interview with Inc. magazine, Musk said that at one point he was drinking eight cans of Diet Coke a day along with several large coffees, a diet he eventually had to cut back on. “I was so shocked that I seriously started to feel like I was losing my peripheral vision,” he said. “Now the office has Diet Coke without caffeine.”
Diet Coke might be a popular drink — you can pick up a 24-pack for $12 — but even those with the resources to drink something else still choose it.
Trump reportedly drank up to 12 cans a day, and he allegedly used a call button on the Resolute desk in the Oval Office primarily to call for a cool drink. Ben Affleck is another high profile fan; he was seen holding a can in paparazzi photos, and a video posted by his wife, Jennifer Lopez, revealed what looked like a soda fountain in his personal office dispensing it (alongside, confusingly, Diet Pepsi, which the DC cult hates).
But the majority of Diet Coke’s army looks like people you know: the co-worker who pops a can every afternoon or the girlfriend whose car cup holder always holds at least one half-empty bottle. . They’ll tell you how much better it is than Coke Zero or how McDonald’s sells the best version. They might have strong opinions about the shape of the ice. Their bedside tables may not deserve national attention, but they might look a lot like the one belonging to the richest man on the planet.