Every morning when I log on to my Facebook, I find myself faced with 50+ requests and gifts ranging from “fertilize my crops” to “here, have a chicken.” It seems that every Mom I know is playing Farmville. And this might be accurate; this year, the virtual game surpassed the highly addictive World of Warcraft as the #1 game in America.
It’s now becoming the target of criticism by everyone from human resources organizations to parenting experts who think that Farmville is detracting parents from paying attention to their children. Although its critics represent very different facets of life, their gripe is the same – that Farmville decreases productivity.
I played it myself for about two months while I was pregnant, miserable, and bored. It was an experiment in trying to understand the draw. I played every possible scenario to maximize my Farmville earnings before reaching level 50, a filthy rich Farmviller, and having absolutely no use for my wealth. I surrendered.
In a study done by Cisco, one of the world’s most noted networking companies, it was discovered that globally, Farmville enthusiasts were spending an average of 68 minutes per day playing the interactive game.
For me, the game was endearing for a few weeks but it was more of a challenge than an addiction. Once I reached my goal, I was bored and couldn’t understand why people kept coming back for more. I even tried again a few times after I had abandoned my virtual crops but to no avail; I just couldn’t get into it. But according to David DiSalvo of Scientific American Mind, this is simply because it’s not part of my personality.
DiSalvo took on Dr. Phil in his February 2010 article, Are Social Networks Messing With Your Head? In January 2010, on his popular television show, Dr. Phil met with a Mom who was neglecting her children in order to play Farmville all day, every day. Dr. Phil simply told her to turn the game off. “Unplug it and walk away,” he said. DiSalvo criticized him for his simple answer.
Instead, DiSalvo explains that, for the Farmville obsessed, it can be an outlet for obsessive compulsive disorder, a disorder which has character traits that are held by 1 in 50 Americans. He also says that it can be a substitute for social interaction for someone with social anxiety – the game’s feature that allows users to tend one another’s crops and send virtual gifts creates the illusion of socializing. In short, his theory is that the majority of people who play interactive games do so in a completely healthy way. For the rest, Farmville isn’t giving them a unique addiction, but rather an outlet for one that already exists.
So to answer the question about whether Farmville is having a negative effect on families – no. Farmville simply takes preexisting personality traits and gives them a new home. In short, if it wasn’t Farmville, it would be something else.
Apparently my lack of Farmville enthusiasm simply means that I don’t have an addictive personality. However, if you ask my Starbucks barista, you might get a different answer.
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