Winslow in Rehab; Six Days Off the Farm

Pierce Winslow

I have entered a virtual rehab to treat an addiction to Facebook’s Farmville. There, I said it. I have a problem, well, maybe not. But this thing is evil.

I have said from the very beginning that social networking sites are evil. Mrs. Winslow convinced me to join Facebook; I forget the justification. I got into it to a certain extent. Then I found myself with 100+ friends and a “news” feed from hundreds of people to whom I haven’t spoken in ten or twenty years. The sites tout their ability to help people reconnect, but how much reconnection is there really? I have this stream of minutia coming from hundreds of almost strangers. X needs coffee, Y needs coffee, X got coffee, Y is sick of spending $4.00 for coffee at Starbucks. Is this really reconnection? It’s mostly a stream of meaningless bullshit from over a hundred people. From time to time there is a truly meaningful bit, but those are usually lost in the stream of meaningless noise. I am an ADD software engineer. I spend hours every day scanning streams of text for that one little spot where there is a problem. I don’t find scanning 400K of tedious crap for those one or two meaningful bits relaxing. Apparently I am in the minority.

Check out teenagers. I know some that have 900+ friends and are proud of it. Come on, does a 16 year old really know nine hundred people? The friend count is like a badge of honor. Most of those friends are probably perves, or phishermen, or just people out there to do no good. So here are our children inviting them into their lives and giving them access to their personal information, thousands of pictures, and a minute-by-minute update on where they are and what they’re doing. Social Networking sites have become more than a colossal waste of time. They are an instrument of destruction. There are children committing suicide because of the torment inflicted by their peers on a stage of 900 strangers. And who do these children turn to for support? Those 900 strangers. See a problem here? A blind man could see it with a cane.

The media has recently been posting stories about how these sites are causing families to break up. People hook up with old flames, or find new ones, or just spend hours sifting through, and generating, megabytes of meaningless data thereby neglecting their reality. I believe it. Having three young children, there is precious little time to spend, awake, with your partner. Spending this time on Facebook, or networking sites in general, elevates these little tidbits of relationships online above what should be your most important relationship, thereby chipping away at its very foundation and causing its eventual collapse *whew*. You could be spending that time editing, posting, writing or drawing crap like you see on the Discord. As if this cacophony wasn’t enough, there are the apps.

Apps are not-so-little games played online with your friends. As if the stream of minutia wasn’t enough, they give you things you have to do. Well, you don’t have to do them until you start, and…my experience is with Farmville.

They start you off easy. Maintenance is simple, growth is fast, it’s kinda neat, and not a lot of bullshit. Then they suck you in. Pretty soon you’re at level 25, you have expanded your farm to 576 squares, and you have run out of free fuel for your harvester, your tractor, and your seeder. Sure you can get through the first hundred or so squares of harvesting with the free daily fuel, but then you have over 1000 mouse clicks ahead of you to complete harvesting, plowing, and planting. And that’s just for your crops. Then there are the trees, the sheep, the cows, ducks, turkeys, and fuckin’ cats. Since when is a cat harvestable? And have you ever seen a penguin produce ice cubes!??!? Pretty soon you’re begging your friends for parts to build a horse barn. And make sure you create that little square of impassable objects in the center of your farm to prevent having to wait half an hour for your avatar to wander around the farm doing the shit you tell it to do. It’s right about then that, just to make the thing playable, they want you to whip out your credit card to buy fuel, fancy decorations, fuel, and that ever popular hot-rod tractor, and, of course, fuel. The worst nightmare may be, as any a’ Farmviller will attest, the fertilizer, Fertilizer, FERTILIZER! *sigh* You need to send all of your friends gifts in the hopes that they will send you some back. When they do, you have to open them and put them someplace. Or, you have to put them someplace, open them, then go back to your gift box, open them again, and put them someplace, AGAIN. It’s like American Idol: it never ends and goes downhill fast. The shit’s like crack without the buzz. And Farmville is just a gateway drug.

Farmville leads you to Fishville, benign enough right? A virtual fish tank ten feet away from our real fish tank. I can’t get my five-year-old (turned five today actually; happy birthday Baby Face) to feed the real fish, or clean their tank, but she’ll get on that damned Facebook thing and scrub the tank, feed the fish, sell off the grown ones, buy new baby ones, rearrange the decorations, the whole nine yards. And this Fishville, inevitably, leads to….

Petville, where you have some chartreuse dog that runs away if you don’t check on it several times a day. And every time that thing runs away (every day) it costs you ~600 coins to get it back. And until you give it love, clean it up, give it food, blah, blah, blah, it is unhappy. Unhappy? It’s a fuckin’ algorithm for chrissake, an adaptive cartoon. Isn’t the real thing good enough? As if Facebook doesn’t have you bent over enough, you have to visit your friends’ pets. You have to have their pets over for a playdate. You have to furnish your house. You have to furnish other peoples’ houses. Could someone please furnish my house? My couch has seen better days.

Farm, Fish, and Pet-ville are just the tip of the Facebook App iceberg. There’s Yoville, Café World, Zyunga Poker, Mafia wars, Vampire Wars, and Methodists! There is so much crap going on there that their servers cannot keep up with the load. Of course, there are those taking advantage of the masses’ addiction by posting bogus “become a fan here and get a second chicken coop” things. My machine has paid the price. My virus scanner hangs scanning, coincidentally, Facebook[1].htm. I see a rebuild coming. That’s about ten or twelve hours of bullshit I don’t need right now. The proverbial straw was when I had to wait, literally, five minutes between accepting Farmville gifts while trying to build a horse stable in an effort to reduce my number of daily mouse clicks by 25.

I had been noticing that I was getting more and more anxious every time it was time to “do my farm”. It was hours of torturous mouse-clicks, and waiting, and tedium that my ADD psyche could no longer withstand. How about this? How about I reduce my number of mouse clicks by a couple of thousand, save my eyes from that numbing sensation brought on by another couple of hours of stream sifting, and drop this shit?

So, I am in voluntary Facebook rehab and have never been happier. I no longer dread the Repetitive Stress Syndrome to be incurred by my kids going to sleep. I have enough shit to do without spending my free time working. To those of you that really dig this, or have hours and hours of time to kill (and a good orthopede), knock yourself a pro, Slick. For me, I don’t know what I’ll do, sleep maybe?

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Pierce Winslow

Pierce Winslow is the Discord's Brain, Chief Engineer and C.E.O. He co-founded the Discord along with Mick Zano in 2008 and they have both been sorry ever since.