It started innocently enough. A Facebook friend sent a request that I join them in FarmVille. I thought it might be a fun distraction from baking and researching and joined the party. Soon, I knew I had a problem.
In addition to FarmVille, I was also playing Mafia Wars, Castle Age and a few other games. What began as a diversion became a non-paying occupation. In order to succeed at the games, you need a large group of Facebook friends playing the same game. There is no real strategic thinking required to play the games but rather several tasks to build points and earn weapons or tools.
Fortunately, I didn’t hit the headlines because I shook my baby or collapsed in an Internet café after a 50-hour gaming binge. I just realized I was wasting too much time on a non-productive, non-income generating hobby. I got nothing out of it. There was no social interaction among the 1,800-plus members of my mafia other than “war on my wall” and “this guy keeps attacking me – go get him!”
Maybe I didn’t fit a clinical description of being an Internet addict. All I know is enough was enough. I stopped cold turkey on January 3, 2010.
Step 1: Turn off the computer
For me, this was the easy part. We had two free nights at a casino resort in southern Indiana and our laptop had just been stolen three weeks earlier. Before we left home on Sunday morning, I didn’t bother to do my jobs or harvest my crops.
If you can’t unplug that easily, you might have a harder time of it. Leave a note for your “real” Facebook friends and tell them you’ll be offline for a few days. Do NOT log into your account for any reason.
Step 2: Block every game from your feed
This is a fairly easy step as well. When you do finally log back into your Facebook account, look at your news feed. If it’s filled with game notifications, you took the right step. There is an X next to every post – click on it and select “Delete”. The site will ask you if you want to block postings from that application and the correct answer is “YES”!
Every time you get a game request, block it. I still get them occasionally but after more than a year, the request might sit there for weeks before I even notice it.
Step 3: Trim your friends list
If you followed the advice of the gaming gurus, you probably established a separate account just for gaming, keeping your real life friends in the dark about your – ahem – “problem”. All you need to do is simply delete the Facebook profile.
If you’re like me and kept everything in one big pot, you have two choices. Create a new profile and add your real life friends and business associates. The other option is a long, slow cutting of the fat.
When I quit playing Facebook games, I had over 2,300 “friends”. Fourteen months later, I’m down to less than 700. Over the last year, I deleted people who I was linked to strictly through gaming. In the meantime, I’ve added over 250 family members, school friends and business associates. The realization that I let more than 1,800 people I didn’t know full access to my profile was a kick in the gut.
The final step, which should apply to everyone and not just Facebook gamers: check your profile security. Do you really know who might see those pictures from the Bahamas?