(Don’t) Use a Hoe


“Howdy, friend! How’d you like to be neighbors? Come join me in FarmVille, where you can grow delicious fruits and vegetables on your very own farm!”

My Facebook just asked me if I’d like to farm.  This has got to be a joke. There is no way someone would really want me to farm on Facebook.

Facebook itself is addictive enough to keep us glued to the computer screen for hours on end, but Farmville and similar applications add a whole new dimension to the way we spend our hours online. The popular application combines social networking with an obsessive game.

FarmVille is Facebook’s latest craze, where online users look after virtual farms, raise crops and till soil, hoping to make a profit on the pumpkin seeds they invest their virtual money in. The concept is basic, simple, and mindless—the perfect sell for the average Facebook user. Apparently, FarmVille is no joke. My friends (and 62 million other people worldwide) are compulsively logging into the social networking site, not to meet new people or find fun events on campus, but to milk their cows and take care of their eggplant crop.

But the game soon develops into something wonderfully addictive and alarmingly time-consuming.

“Hang on a sec,” said my friend as I was telling her about my weekend trip to Virginia, “I just gotta get my blueberries; can you wait five minutes?” Stopping conversations in the real world in order to take care of your virtual Farm is starting to become standard practice for Facebook users. The game has transcended the real world, letting cyberspace promote three-dimensional introversion via a social networking site.

Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of the site itself? Facebook was developed to bring people together, not isolate them. When they log into Facebook, users are now more concerned with their crops than they are with eachother.

FarmVille, like so many applications before it, (think JetMan, Café World, or Mafia Wars) is part of a growing trend for users of this social networking site to retreat further into their own cyber world, allowing their rice paddies and raspberry yield to take precedence over their daily lives.

Facebook started as a way for students on college campuses to meet each other and find people with similar interests. Now that our siblings in fifth grade and our grandparents in their Floridian geriatric facilities have access to the site, it’s clear that the masterminds behind its addicting power decided it needs a new niche. Enter applications. Making friends and joining groups seem so passé now that I have the ability to answer one of the thousands of quizzes just dying to be taken on the site (What Harry Potter character are YOU? What European city are YOU destined to live in? What is YOUR rapper name?)

More and more people log on to Facebook to play games that not only detract from the initial mission of the site but also become catalysts for their users to immerse themselves deeper into the Internet.

What happened to the excitement of a friend request? The simplicity of forming a group? If I log into the site to buy seed for my virtual horses or spend a half hour answering questions that will tell me “what Broadway show tune were YOU in a past life,” I miss out on the essential mission Mark Zuckerberg developed back in 2004 in his Harvard dorm room. Facebook is slowly ceasing to be a social network and becoming a network of isolated users who get to know each other based on the acreage of their farm or the scope of their cyber mafias.

Is Facebook fostering a community that now looks inwards instead of outwards? I get RPGs and video games. I understand the draw to Call of Duty or Second Life (if that’s the sort of thing you’re into). What I don’t understand is the point of these types of “second-worlds” on sites that claim to bolster social connection and school community.

I am nagged on a daily basis to start a farm and see what so-and-so is up to on FarmVille. I’m sick of it. I don’t want to sit in Tisch, worrying about whether or not my cows will be content through the night instead of about my history final. Some claim that FarmVille is a product of society’s innate desire to lead a pastoral life. These are the same “some” who spend two hours a day in front of the computer buying duck ponds and hot air balloons for their farms. This has got to be a joke.

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