This screenshot is one I took of my farm in Farmville. See how neat and regular the fields? The trees all in neat lines, the animals well cared for? The flowers lining the fences, my little person neatly ensconced in her enclosure in the middle of the whole thing? You can see that I had a considerable bankroll, over three million coins at this time, and that I was on level 48. I have over 50 friends, and you can see 7 of them at the bottom of the page. My fuel tank is full and I have about 121 more tanks waiting for me to use. My horses are contentedly lounging in their stable, the cats are in the yard and the dogs are waiting to play. The houses neatly aligned, all ready for visitors. The gnomes are roaming the village, the pigeons are flying around and there are picnics arrayed in two of the yards. On my farm everything is in order. It is neat and free of clutter. There is a beauty in its orderliness and my friends regularly visit me and leave gifts in my box. I can tend my farm whenever I want to and I can help my friends on their farms, and leave gifts for them as well. I can make financial decisions that have an expectable outcome. If I plant high yield crops and harvest them on time, I will make money. If I let them wither and die, I will lose my investment. It’s clear and simple.
In my real life, things are not so regular. I get overwhelmed sometimes by the vicissitudes of life. People do and say things that are untrue and make me feel bad, and clutter accumulates that seems beyond my control. I never have enough money, no matter how much I work. I am with twelve-year olds all day, and they are the least predictable humans I’ve yet encountered. I find it relaxing and calming to spend a half an hour in the evening on my farm, bringing order to this little environment. On my farm I am in control, and that feeds something in me. I still cook good meals most days and I make a point of getting out and moving my body in real life. I do things with my friends and family, and I love to go out to the Sacramento River as often as the water level will permit it. My farm doesn’t replace anything essential in my real life. It just provides a little time out that I like at the end of the day.
I often see a message on Facebook that some friend or another has joined a group that declares “I don’t care about your farm or your fish or your park or your mafia.” I’ve clicked to those sites and they are full of vituperative comments about people playing games on Facebook. To this I say, take a deep breath and relax. Do you really care if your friends want to play a game on Facebook? I don’t judge you for your choice to post a lot of stuff from random web sites, or your family Christmas photos or your high school football game photos from twenty years ago, even if they are not of great interest to me. Who makes the rules about what is and is not acceptable use of Facebook? Really. If you get sick of seeing the notices all you have to do is click “Hide application” next to one announcement and you will see them no more. At all. In the meantime, I have to go harvest my sugar cane before it wilts. See you on the net!
UPDATE: On January 1, 2011 I deleted my farm. (At least I thought I did. I actually just hid it.) I decided enough was enough, and to look for order in places non-virtual. Occasionally I still go there, but the magic is pretty much gone now. My crops are more likely to wilt than flourish long enough to harvest them. It’s a good thing. I think the blush is off of that rose, in many ways. I’m spending less time on my computer, more time reading or taking photographs. I never see the vituperance from non-farmers any more either. Now I’m planning a real backyard remodel. With real dirt and real flowers. The photos will follow!