The Virtual Addict: Poop for brains

You have undoubtedly heard the story already about the mother in Colorado who was on Facebook, hanging out in Cafe World while her 13-month-old son drowned in the bathtub.

The 34-year-old mother told police that her son was very independent. She said in the weeks prior to his death the baby had made it clear he wanted to be left alone. 

If that were true and there is no way it is, I suspect it’s because even at 13-months the toddler realized his mother had poop for brains.

She probably changed her status updates more than she did his droopy diapers.

How much you wanna bet she fed the animals in Farmville on a more regular schedule than she did her own child?

 She certainly spent more time chatting with friends in Cafe World than she did interacting with her own son.

I don’t have a clue what Cafe World is or why anyone — even those with poop for brains — would put a 13-month old in a bathtub & leave them there, alone, for any reason.

According to Facebook (which put up the disclaimer that they didn’t develop the App), there are 17,265,093 people hanging around Cafe World at any given time. Facebook refers to them as “active users.” I think the more accurate terminology would be virtual addicts.

17, 265, 093 addicts.

That’s like having all the people in New York City and some New Jersey neighbors hanging out in the same Starbucks on any random Saturday afternoon snorting foam.  

Too much noise.

Too many distractions.

Any person, even a person with a Harvard education and the DNA of Einstein, couldn’t think in a place like that.

They’d all have poop for brains.

We keep expecting our enemies to show up on the subway with a beard and a backpack full of explosives, and instead he comes disguised as a Pink-haired Troll catering to us right in the comfort of our own dining room.

Cafe World bills itself as “A fun & fantastic game in which you can spend your time running your own virtual cafe!” Perhaps a more fitting description would be “Cafe World: A game in which you can spend your time ruining your own real world.”

About Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Speaker. Journalism Instructor. Four kids. Three dogs. One grandson.

  • http://www.balancedandunafraid.blogspot.com Vasca

    Sad…Cafe World isn’t the only ‘game’ out there ruining one’s own real world. I know several addicts who let most everything go to keep up w/their ‘businesses’.

    Addicts come in all shapes…it’s easier for some to become addicted than others.

  • http://mmilesfiction.wordpress.com Matt Miles

    Did this ever happen before FB? Friends and I were “addicted” to reality based computer games like Sim Tower or Sim Isle a few years back (1997-2000),but I don’t recall anyone losing track of the real world because of it. It makes me wonder, what’s the difference? Was real life that much better then, making the need for escape less?

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Bad mothers are nothing new, Matt, but you raise an important question — one I’m wondering about too. The seduction of online — there is a pull, a magnetic thing that seems to transcend time and space and reality.
      I keep thinking of The Screwtape Letters and the warnings that came embedded in those tales.
      We seemed to have completely ignored those warnings.

  • http://koinepdx1.blogspot.com AF Roger

    Some years back here in Portland, a pair of model high school students engaged in a long string of armed robberies. They had everything going for them in terms of student leadership, athletics and academics. Their spree unraveled when one of the two shot himself in the groin as he was stuffing his handgun into his pants in a getaway. Yes, it was real, live ammunition in a real, live weapon. But their still-juveniley wired brains couldn’t see the terrified teens on the other side of the register facing the muzzle of that weapon as real, live human beings. Self was so overgrown in the robbers’ minds that there was no room for the humanity of others and the consequences of what gave the two “the rush”. I remarked at the time that the criminal justice system was ill suited to the task. “The tribal elders should handle this,” I said. Biggest task besides painful and memorable punishment would be to move them into a situation in which they actually learned to care and have compassion for another living thing–supervised by community elders who wouldn’t quite until the results were achieved. But we don’t live in a society with tribal elders anymore.

    About the same time, we went to hear author Bill McKibben at a local bookstore. He was taking about the formidable task of getting people to care about the natural world that supports all economies and all of life. He said we had to start with the kids and that having the latest tools and technology in the classroom was a distant second to something else. “Get them outside,” he said. “Teach them to fall in love with the real world first, because that’s the only place we do everything else that matters.”

    Might be an interesting question to pose at an upcoming adult forum at church. “In 25 words or less, describe your understanding of the real world.” Then ask this question: Why does it matter? Might be interesting to compare the answers of kids, teens and adults today.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I think that would make for a terrific lesson.

  • Marci Huggins

    Karen, thanks for posting this. I never heard of that FB application, but I understand Farmville and others are very popular. I wonder how many of this womans Cafe World friends attended her childs funeral. Very sad.

    I have posted this on my FB page in hopes of bringing more awareness to just how ridiculous and dangerous this virtual crap has become.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Marci: I’m clueless about gaming, online or otherwise. The games I play are all done sitting at the dining room table, where I can administer CPR to the guy sitting across from me, should I need to after I buy up his Park Place and his Illinois Ave.
      I know people who are “lost” in this stuff. And yes, I think it’s dangerous. Will these folks get to the end of their lives and realize that they spent far too much time “playing” life instead of “living” life?

      • Marci Huggins

        Sadly, I’m afraid too many people will look back at life and see a lot of emptiness where there was so much potential.

        And, for the record, I like sitting playing a little board game called Scrabble with my mom.

  • http://peterpollock.com Peter P

    Wow. That was harsh!

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Harsh?
      The woman was playing a game while her son drowned in the next room.
      She wasn’t 13. She’s 34.
      She wasn’t incapable of caring for a child due to physical limitations.She made a stupid choice. Then she defended herself by claiming that the child — 13 months old — wanted to be “left alone.”
      Harsh?
      Hardly.

      • http://peterpollock.com Peter P

        She’s also one of the people whom Jesus loved enough to die on the cross for so that ALL of her sins can be forgiven

        Regardless of whether or not, by our standards, she’s fit to be a parent, she’s someone that we are supposed to be taking the gospel to.

        I used the word harsh (which gets to be a stranger word every time I write it) but what I meant was it was painful to her.

        She lost her son…. and then Jesus announced to the world that she has poop for brains.

        • Karen Spears Zacharias

          She killed her son.
          She didn’t lose him.
          And Jesus could be pretty harsh when it came to his thoughts about people who harm children.
          This isn’t a tale about redemption. It’s commentary about us. About who we have become. And about who the real enemy is.
          And, I stand by my statement, that anyone who says a 13 month old has grown so independent that he wanted to just “be left alone” has poop for brains.

          • http://peterpollock.com Peter P

            I’m not disagreeing that, if the reports are true, she’s in the wrong here.

            My question is about how we treat people individually.

            Did Jesus ever single someone out and speak harshly to the masses about that person?

            If this lady reads your blog and emails you asks why you wrote that about her, how would you respond to her?

            Would you email back and tell her she’s irresponsible, a murderer, an unfit parent and has poop for brains?

            Would you stand outside the courtroom yelling as she passes by that she has poop for brains?

            We, as Christians do that all too often and then scratch our heads wondering why those people won’t listen to the gospel of love and forgiveness from us.

  • Karen Spears Zacharias

    Peter:
    Having stood outside the courtroom on many such occasions, no, I don’t yell out at them. And if she emailed me personally, yes, I might engage her in conversation. But, yes, if she emailed and asked, I would tell her my thoughts. That she has been Seduced — and seduction, anytime it happens, takes a willing partner. And that the Seducer is also known by the name Destroyer. And that he has and continues to effectively destroy our lives by turning our brains to poop and convincing us that a virtual reality is the same as a real life.
    If people want warm fuzzies, they can go read Your Best Life Now and get a pep talk from Preacher Smiley.
    I’m not the feel-good granny.
    I call it like I see it and with 17 million people online as active users in Cafe World, I stand by what I said and the spirit in which I said it.
    This mother is a virtual addict. And as anyone who had lived with an addict knows what they need is someone to tell it to them straight, not somebody who is going to continue to enable their behavior with sweet-talk.
    Yes, Jesus saves, but even he demands that we make a choice between serving him or our own selfish pursuits.

  • http://koinepdx1.blogspot.com AF Roger

    One of the most unforgettable pieces of film-making I’ve had the privilege to see is the quirky and now ancient inide cult-film “The Gods Must Be Crazy”. Premise: when a member of a very un-modern tribal community living in modern times finds a Coca Cola bottle that had been dropped out of a low-flying airplane, the people conclude that it must be a gift of the gods, that it must have magical powers. They become so mired in jealousies and strife over the possession of this new object of veneration that their entire life is disrupted. Finally, a tribal elder snatches it, goes on a long trek on foot and drops it off the edge of a cliff into a fog-shrouded valley.

    Not only do we now have a world without the stabilizing role of elders in offering the wisdom of the ages to the community, but the elders we do have are completely behind the power curve of where society and its “tools” (toys??) are going. Things are introduced at an alarming rate with absolutely no mechanism to even think about how they will redefine us as a species and a culture, let alone the authority to decide whether what we CAN do is what we SHOULD do, whether it’s good for us. Or not.

    That’s the bigger story behind Karen’s post, I think. We dare not give it short shrift. From my office window I watch middle schoolers from the neighborhood walk to and from school on the other side of the fence. Some days I want to run outside and ask how many years it’s been since they have actually looked at the sky, the clouds, whether they can hear the birds sing, if they know how to have a face-to-face conversation. Can they see beyond the little glowing screens in the plams of their hands? In a totally manufactured world, where does the metaphor, the reality, of a Creator God even gain a toehold in the heart and the mind?

    Several years ago in a training group I listened to a meth addict mother say that when it came to making a choice between going to the table for her next hit or tending to her crying baby that had been in a dirty diaper for hours or a day, her heart would break all the way to the table. Every time.

    Will those middle schoolers passing by my window so changed in attention span, so differently socialized as I suspect they are, be able to relate to their own infants in the way these babies need just a few years down the road? Is anybody asking? Does anybody care? We can’t expect the kids to be asking these questions, but shouldn’t someone be asking? Because one Cafeworld mom let her baby drown in the tub doesn’t mean the other 16.999 million players have absolutely no issues of child or relationship neglect going on at home. It’s an unanswered question.

    But here’s a question I also ponder from time to time. The increasingly smaller devices we now carry around in our palms and hang on our ears will become, I fully expect, tiny implants before the end of this decade. It something is technologically possible (I fully believe this is, testing is already going on), and if it’s possible to make a profit (who wouldn’t want one?), it’s inevitable that it will be done. Often sooner than we think.

    Whether Karen has done the charitable thing of using the “poop for brains” metaphor is a question. But the bigger question is actually the sobering one of microchips for brains. We’re parsing the use of a comma when we should be contemplating the entire paragraph, chapter and volume of what makes us human, what makes us community, and how we socialize and care for our young in this very changed and changing world. I don’t think we know.


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