Farmville. It is a game found on Facebook. It is a deceptively simple little game. I myself do not much care for games. I play solitaire on my computer, or rather, I used to play solitaire, before I found ravelry. Now all I do is skim through the thousands of knitting and crochet patterns, rather than playing solitaire, and rather than knitting or crocheting.
But we’re talking about Farmville here. When I first joined facebook, I was invited to be neighbors by another friend. I accepted, but I never really did anything. My boyfriend discovered that my daughter would play Farmville, vapid for hours, and it could be turned into educational lessons for her. Once she became responsible for keeping track of crops and payments and earnings, she quickly decided she wanted to do other things instead. During that time when she was still interested, however, she did manage to get me hooked.
I already have enough trouble trying to stay focused, be it with my writing, or my drawing, or my knitting, or darn near anything else some days. I will check my email a hundred times a day, just to see what is going on with everyone else. I call it ‘looking for inspiration’. I join groups. I join newsletters. I check in on various forums. I sign up for classes, or download classes. I do all sorts of things. Anything to keep me from working. Then, at the end of the day, I feel bad because I haven’t accomplished my goals.
Along comes Farmville. I cannot remember what started it first. My daughter started to play. There was some sort of something going on where if you planted pumpkins you earned so many points, and so many coins. You had to plant them and then harvest them. You had to harvest them before they withered and died. You had to get as many planted as possible, so you could get more coins, so you could plant more pumpkins. Farmville has crops that grow to harvest ready states in just a few hours…as well as some that it takes days to mature. My daughter was instantly hooked.
You send gifts to your friends, and they send you gifts back. You can have houses and farm equipment and trees and ponds and animals. You have to take care of everything. Animals have to be milked or brushed or eggs collected or whatever. You can go to your neighbor’s farms to help them out by fertilizing their crops and feeding their chickens.
My daughter and I became totally caught up in the how much more can we do and how much more can we have blitz. We had to grow more crops so we could get more land. We had to have more trees. We had to have more points. We had to have more animals. We had to send more gifts so we could get more gifts.
Then Valentine’s Day came, with its Valentine’s mailbox. The rush was on to collect as many valentines as possible. Farmville would let you know how you were doing, with notices like you now outrank John Smith. You are ranked 50 out of 100 friends. So, the pressure was on to collect more, to rank higher, to be better.
I am not certain when I stopped and pulled back some to look at myself. Maybe it was after I set up the excel worksheet to tell me how much each crop would net me coins-wise with each planting. Maybe it was after getting tired of checking my update stream every thirty seconds to see if there was a calf to adopt or a valentine to nab or a bonus to procure as one friend or another accomplished some arbitrary goal.
Now, during this entire time, I was downsizing in our home. I was not just removing clutter from our lives, I was simplifying everything in my life. I was cutting back on my work hours. I was putting more time into being with my children and my boyfriend. I was focusing more on slowing things down. I was weeding out the things that ate away at my time needlessly.
One day, as I was grumbling through my way of brushing every single calf we have on our Farmville farm, I stopped. Why is this so important to me?
I send gifts every single day, whether I play or not. My friends depend upon me and I don’t want to let them down. Even when my daughter is grounded and not allowed on Facebook at all to play the games, I will send gifts. I have no idea what I am sending or why, but I send something every single day. Not for myself. For my friends.
Even if I don’t harvest my crops or my trees or my animals, I will visit the farms of friends, because they need their crops fertilized. Farmville started to have problems that caused me to be able to visit only a few friends, or to shut down my browser if I started to visit friends, so I backed off of that for awhile.
Instead of wanting more trees and more animals, I became tired of having to harvest each and every animal individually. Yes, you can buy a farm hand or an arborist. Farmville is a free game. I am not putting actual money into it. It is not that important to me. I started to sell off animals, especially ones that didn’t really make sense to me. We had about twenty penguins. I sold them all. My daughter grew upset when I started to sell off the cats. I kept one of each color. If we get an orange one, I consider our collection of cats complete.
Buildings. First, I decided it was a farm. I didn’t want to live on the farm. It was strictly for crops of all sorts. Then, my daughter bought us a tractor. Without my permission. I decided I would buy a barn to keep the tractor in. Farmville sells all sorts of barns. None of them will allow you to store your tractor, your seeder or your harvester. I sold the barn back, at a loss, and I didn’t feel bad at all. Now, we have a house, because with the Valentine’s mailbox and the St Patrick’s Day pot of gold and now the Spring Basket, a house seems like a good thing to have around.
My daughter drove me crazy. She still does. She tries to line every animal up, as if it were a tree. Yes, I understand that these are cartoon animals. But it still bothers me to no end when they are lined up in a straight line. Real animals do not do that. My skin crawled for days because my daughter kept the cats and the rabbits together in a pen. I wasn’t happy until they were separated. It reached the point where I forbade my daughter from playing my Farmville, because she was doing it wrong. She didn’t do it the way I wanted it done.
Ah. There are so many other points.
Basically, I drew back, appalled at myself. One day I watched, observed myself as if from a distance. Every five or ten minutes, no matter what I was doing, I would check to see how my farm was doing. Everything was planted, harvested, brushed, collected, you name it.
Then, I took a deep breath. Although I still check the facebook update stream a few times a day, to see what friends and groups and family are up to, my Farmville experience is now a once to twice a day habit…one I am still moving towards breaking completely. I still feel this obligation not to let the animals sit unharvested, not to let the trees go unharvested. I still feel obligated to send things to friends. I still feel obligated to visit and help out on friend’s farms.
Now I do things in moderation. I do not visit every single friend every single day. I try not to send every single friend a gift every single day, and not in every single game we may have in common, thanks to my daughter.
I leave my lands unplanted for long periods of time now. Although I still do try to keep things plowed, so that when friends visit my farm, they are not disappointed and they do have something to fertilize.
I still have a long way to go. Breaking the Farmville habit is similar to quitting smoking. You taper down a little bit, then you taper down a bit more. You have days where you backslide and all you want to do is check things on Farmville. Then you start over, tapering off again. Until one day, the need to do these things is no longer there. Until the day comes where you don’t even think about Farmville, as if it never existed. That’s where I am heading, slowly but surely. One day at a time.