October 9, 2013

Misty Watson: Kicking the Candy Crush craving

Misty Watson

— Six months ago I gave into peer pressure and began doing something I’m not proud of.

I started playing Candy Crush on Facebook. You know, that game where all you do is swap candy around over and over and over again? It’s like Bejeweled but better because it has a different challenge for each level, like crushing 100 green, yellow and purple pieces or getting a certain score in a set amount of time.

People think all I did was play this game. But in reality, I played once or twice a day. OK. So maybe that once a day meant I was sitting there for 45 minutes every so often while I munched on lunch as my daughter napped. And maybe I knew my husband’s Facebook password just so I could send myself lives. Why do you only get to bank five lives at a time? And when’s the last time I dusted the TV stand?

Candy Crush is a bit addictive.

I’m proud to announce I’ve overcome this time-waster. “Hi. My name is Misty and I’ve been without Candy Crush since Saturday ...” Gone. Deleted the app. I was on level 377. And no, I never paid for any part of the game.

It never made sense to me why so many of my friends and I were so into this game. We’re fairly intelligent people. We do good things for our community and the environment. We go to church. We raise families. We have jobs, careers even. We do fundraisers. We volunteer. We have book clubs that discuss a different novel each month. Why do we get sucked into this game?!

I’d defended myself against friends who ridiculed me for playing Candy Crush.

“With all I do, I need something to unwind, to zone out and clear my mind.” And I do, but that’s what running does for me too, and it’s much healthier.

“I don’t really play that often. I’m just good at it when I do because I see the patterns easily.” Well, that’s true, too ... er, kind of.

I’m not alone.

Several websites report that there are more than 600 million active game sessions each day from mobile devices. My cellphone is so old it might as well be a rotary so I only ever played on a computer. No iPad in my possession either.

There are 132.45 million people who connect to Candy Crush through Facebook each month, according to an article at cnet.com. The app is No. 1 among the apps on Facebook and has been for nine months now, according to an article on reuters.com.

There are Candy Crush socks. Candy Crush party decorations and cakes. Candy Crush T-shirts. Candy Crush-themed stuffed animals.

This isn’t the first time a mindless game has gotten so popular. Remember Angry Birds? Or what about Pac-Man even? I’m pretty sure if computers and smartphones had been around when Pac-Man came out we would have seen the same type of love-hate, obsessive behavior.

I’d argue our culture is obsessed with wasting time, me included. Why else would cat videos remain so popular on YouTube? Here’s an idea: just adopt a cat and watch it instead! They do some crazy stuff that doesn’t involve keyboards, plus you get the satisfaction of saving a cat from a life on the streets.

The key is to replace our bad habit or behavior with a good habit or we’ll just move on to another bad one. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet decided what my good habit is going to be. I can’t exactly go running 15 minutes before bed. I even found myself scrolling through Pinterest the other day. Yuck. I don’t want to become obsessed with that either.

When kicking a bad habit it’s also key to identify why we’re doing it, the real reason you’re doing it — to avoid stuffing our baby’s cloth diapers, to avoid going to sleep (why do I STILL fight sleep?!), to avoid facing our current reality? (Escapism is a biggie for any addiction, no matter how big or small.)

I wonder how long the detox takes. I still see the board in my head when I close my eyes. But life sure does feel better without Candy Crush.

Murray County native Misty Watson is a staff writer and photographer for The Daily Citizen. You can contact her at mistywatson@daltoncitizen.com; facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN; or on Twitter, @mistydwatson. But please, quit sending the Candy Crush requests.