A few months ago I casually added a Facebook application called Pet Society. It seemed fun and innocent enough; I designed my tiny virtual pet and was set up with some coins with which to buy food, clothing, and furniture for my little cottage. In a few short minutes, Pudding, a precious purple cat with huge brown eyes and an endearing smile was all settled into her new neighborhood. And yes, I had neighbors - all pets who belong to my Facebook friends who also added the application. What fun! I could feed Pudding a meatball, give her a bath, change her into a pretty princess dress and even leave the cottage to visit my friends. Imagine my excitement to discover that I received coins for visiting friends! Thus began my mania. I thought about Pudding while I was at work, wondering if she was hungry, dirty, or if anyone had visited her that day. While driving, I weighed the choices of purchasing a series of shelves for Pudding's hard-earned trophies or instead buying the wooden display case. I was shocked when I visited other virtual pets who were dirty and swarming with flies; I immediately scrubbed their furry frames with virtual Irish Srpring. I couldn't resist feeding a pet who was so hungry that she moved sluggishly and wore an expression like the kids from the Sally Struthers commercials. I judged the other virtual pet owners for not taking adequate care of their charges and congratulated myself for once again rushing in to save the day. My friends and I offered to "babysit" if we knew we wouldn't have an opportunity to access a computer on a particular day. Oh, the shame to log in and find your baby filthy and famished! My husband laughed at me and my friends as we discussed our computer-generated critters' wardrobes and the treasures acquired from mystery boxes. My relationship with Pudding had quickly escalated from harmless application to full-on obsession.
Several months, a dozen outfits, and five fully furnished cottage rooms later, I still adore Pudding. She makes me laugh when she spontaneously jumps, fully clothed, into the shower. I giggle watching her pick up and inhale an entire turkey. I rush to the virtual stores at the beginning of the week to check out the array of fresh merchandise and wildly cast away my coins on a host of delectable delights. Sometimes I wonder if it's odd that I'm nearly 40 years old and enjoy spending time with a make-believe purple cat, but I enjoy Pudding's carefree life in Pet Society; there are always friends to hug, donuts to eat, and wallpaper to hang. And the best part of having a virtual pet: no litterbox to clean.