It’s not often that I get upset by the news we cover on AllFacebook but today is an exception.
A young woman from Florida has just pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of her baby son because he interrupted her FarmVille game with his crying.
Alexandra V. Tobias, a 22-year-old from Jacksonville, Florida, declared her plea on Wednesday before Circuit Judge Adrian G. Soud, according to a report in The Florida Times-Union.
Tobias was arrested in January. She reportedly told investigators that she shook the baby, smoked a cigarette “to compose herself”, then shook him again. She said the baby might have hit his head during one of the two shakings. He was just three months old.
Tobias is the one that killed her baby boy, not the developers at Zynga. FarmVille is a cooperative, non-violent game and one that withstands interruptions easily – the very antithesis of a first-person shooter. So on one level I don’t blame the game and I wonder if Tobias was suffering from severe post-natal depression.
On another level, it appalls me how truly addictive people seem to find FarmVille. This is the first report I’ve heard of this kind but there have been plenty of stories written about people who play it all day long, even losing their jobs and going into debt. I’m not a psychologist but I could imagine mindless addiction to a game like this – especially one that is so untaxing and repetitive – being a huge temptation for people who are depressed. Yet I would expect it to exacerbate any problems, since frittering away hours on something so unproductive hardly does wonders for your self-esteem.
The vast majority of FarmVille players access the game through Facebook, where it has 61 million registered users – equivalent to the entire population of the United Kingdom. I’m sure most FarmVille players are just ordinary people passing a bit of time with a fun, animated game but, like any activity, there will be some who take it to excess.
I have no idea what Tobias is doing now (aside from her court appearances, that is). I hope she is not still playing FarmVille. But I can’t help thinking about how a young life has been lost and another one (the mother’s) permanently damaged.
I can only speculate about Tobias’ state of mind – aside from the fact that she looks so sad and lost in her mug shot (above). However, looking at the bigger picture, I know that depression is a real and serious illness. I hope any readers who experience the symptoms will seek help (your doctor is a good place to start), rather than let the situation spiral out of control.
And remember, it’s not a tragedy if your virtual strawberries wither on the vine.