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This Week’s Article

In Guest Writers, Stephen Faig on November 23, 2010 by Two Barbers Tagged: , , , , ,

Limited Cyberspace

I read in the news a couple weeks ago that a mother in Florida pleaded guilty to shaking her baby to death for crying and interrupting her game of FarmVille on Facebook.

For those of you unfamiliar with FarmVille, it is a free game where you can harvest plants and milk cows with your friends on Facebook. Sound boring? As of February 2010, FarmVille surpassed 80 million users worldwide. Go virtual farming.

To be fair, I’ve never played it. But I witnessed my roommates spend hours on it last year. It looked like a good way to kill time if you have absolutely nothing better to do, after counting the cars that pass by and picking fuzz off of all your sweaters, but certainly nothing to write home about or shake a baby over. Not that there’s any acceptable reason for that.

Neither Facebook nor FarmVille have commented on the incident, nor should they. If the game allowed you to invade other farms and attack their owners with pitch forks, you could bet the mother’s defense lawyer would have been lamenting the effects of violence in the media. But FarmVille offers bored people the experience of watching grass grow.

This experience takes place within a social forum, Facebook. In fact, Zynga, the company behind FarmVille, states on its Web site that its mission is to connect people through games that are free and accessible for everyone to play.

No one can argue that people use the Internet to socialize. Facebook currently has over 500,000 million users spending a combined total time of over 800 billion minutes a month on its Web site. To put that in perspective, every month, the combined time of Facebook users spans the evolution of Homo erectus to present day.

But as much as sites like Facebook allow us to connect far and wide through cyber-space, in many ways this connection is at a distance. It is a watered-down form of human interaction. The “self” or “individual” is not present, but behind a computer. You are represented instead by the “bite-sized” information you choose, or, in some cases, other people choose, to share about you online. This information can be very personal, but the interaction itself is piece-meal and impersonal. So what is the appeal?

These types of social networking sites give everyone a voice to express their ideas and share themselves in a vast public forum. In fact, modern technology is enabling our generation to communicate and collaborate on a mass scale of which the world has never seen before. This is changing the way we live and work.

Unfortunately, in many cases, the Internet and social networking sites have also turned into an alternative reality for people who are either bored or disillusioned with their own reality, whether that be dating, making friends at high school, succeeding at work, or even raising a child.

The distance and perceived anonymity of the Internet creates the illusion that it is a place of no ‘real’ consequences. You can lower your inhibitions and act differently than you would in real life. You could be a completely different person. You could start a new ‘virtual’ life in FarmVille.

You can call it cyber-slacking or cyber-escapism. This problem is there’s a real world out there waiting for you.

-Steve

This is Steve’s second article for Two Barbers and he did not commit a single spelling error!

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