February 01, 2010


I've deleted my Facebook account. I set it up about a year ago to make it easier for editors and potential book buyers to find me.

Admittedly, I never worked it, but the whole thing seemed, for me, a waste from the outset. The care and feeding of a Facebook page felt silly and time-sucking, and I've wanted to cut the cord for a while.

Then along came FarmVille, all I needed to kiss Facebook goodbye.

A few months back I started getting Facebook friend requests by the dozens. High school acquaintances. Wow, I thought. I'm one popular chick all of a sudden. What gives? Did somebody buy my book and tell 10 friends who told 10 friends? Did somebody see my byline in a magazine and say, "Lori Hein! I went to high school with her! I'll find her on Facebook and find out more about her writing career."

Nope. None of my new-old Facebook friends cared a whit about anything I'd written nor anything else about me -- marriage, kids, life in general. All they wanted to do was plant corn.

Fake corn. FarmVille corn. I was getting hourly Wall updates about virtual cows and soybeans from people I hadn't communicated with in 35 years. I didn't know what FarmVille was until the Class of '75 launched a collective agricultural assault on my Facebook Wall, and suddenly I couldn't escape it. It was like a kudzu infestation, growing bigger by the hour and choking everything in its path. Joel Castanza, you are one heck of a cyberfarmer, dude, but the thrice-hourly blow-by-blows of every seed you'd sow were killing me.

(Yes, I know I can block the application from infesting my Wall. But if people are only friending me to FarmVille me -- they didn't get in touch before FarmVille, and people who really do want to catch up can and do find me with a quick Google search -- then for me, Facebook, with or without FarmVille feats plastering my Wall, is a waste. FarmVille simply proved the point.)

Can you delete a Facebook account? Yes, you can!

While FarmVille -- and, now that it's overtaken (overgrown?) it, Facebook -- isn't for me, I'm thinking that Zynga, the game's creators, might want to consider a spinoff product for the Chinese market: CemeteryVille.

In China, ancestor worship and veneration of the dead are core cultural traditions that go back 5,000 years (photo: an antique ancestor figurine for a home altar that I picked up at a shop on the island of Cheung Chau in the South China Sea near Hong Kong).

Each April during the Qingming festival, Chinese tend to the graves of their forebears, weeding and remounding dirt, and leaving gifts of alcohol and tobacco for the ancestors' afterlife enjoyment. (Peter Hessler has a great article on the topic, "Restless Spirits," in the January 2010 issue of National Geographic.)

Because so many Chinese have moved to big cities for work and can't get back to their native villages for Qingming, websites have sprouted that allow people to tend "virtual tombs."

If Zynga launched a CemeteryVille game in China it could be Qingming 24/7/365. People could plant virtual flowers, leave virtual offerings and, during the intermittent spells when the Chinese government does not block Facebook, they could enlist the help of their "friends" in taking excellent cybercare of departed family members.