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Head Strong: Facebook epidemic

More than 120 million have joined, many too old for this nonsense. Whatever value it could have is trumped by the etiquette traps it sets.

Should productive adults with families to raise, jobs to do, and taxes to pay be Facebooking?

Dave Frankel is a good friend and a lawyer who happened to spend more than two decades as a television news reporter, weatherman and anchorman.

So you can imagine my surprise last week when he sent me an invitation to "check out his Facebook profile." My response?

Grown men, especially Philly guys, don't Facebook.

I did check out Frankel's Facebook digs though, mostly because I wanted to see what it's all about.

"omg! I have so often wondered how you are!" read one post on Frankel's wall. "I knew you had stayed in Philadelphia . . . and that's it. I've been in Chicago since '93. I have 3 fantastic kids - one's in college in Boston - freshman this year, can you believe it?"

I couldn't. And in the process of moderating Frankel's online reunion, I had inadvertently created my own Facebook page. That morning, dozens of people friended me. Some already had pictures of me posted on their own Facebook pages.

OMG! I thought.

Frankel told me he had a similar epiphany a few weeks ago. Preparing to speak to a news director about a client, the first thing Frankel retrieved in a Google search was the director's Facebook page. There, Frankel's online game of tag began: "Our clients, reporters, anchors, news directors, general managers, producers . . . They're all in here. They're all doing it," he told me.

Frankel's not the only one. Buzz Bissinger - Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, author of one of the most acclaimed sports books ever (Friday Night Lights), and a man whose hatred of blogs has been well-documented - has set up shop on Facebook.

A woman named Cindy who works down the hall from my radio studio has been friended by a cat and two dogs. Her cousin, an employee of the city, entertains friend requests from colonial figures like Betsy Ross and Alexander Hamilton all the time.


I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Facebook now boasts more than 120 million users, including 30 million added in the last three months alone. About 20 percent are between 35 and 54 years old.

And now the site's operators are doing more to bring adults and businesspeople into the fold. A recently announced collaboration between Facebook and will let Facebook users do more to manage their businesses - planning events, managing data and recruiting - right there on Facebook's network.

Last year, Facebook started letting users determine who among their friends or potential friends could see what information in their profiles. Meaning, you might not be able to see pictures of your 23-year-old coworker playing beer pong dressed as Cap'n Crunch, but other friends will. No doubt that increased control will draw more businesspeople into the network.

I hear Facebook is great for sharing stories and pictures with family members scattered throughout the country. Instead of having 10 conversations, you're having one. Others say they believe it's a great way to reconnect with old friends. Some parents say it's perfect for keeping track of whom your kids are hanging out with and what they're up to.

I'm sure that's all true. But I can't help but think that social networking adds a whole new layer of awkward etiquette for those of us older than 30.

Think about how cell phones have affected our communications habits. Obviously it's easier than ever to immediately contact anybody you want. And the conventional wisdom is that we're in touch with more people more often with a cell phone strapped to our sides.

But gone are those secondary relationships fostered when the only phone ringing was the cordless house phone. Now, on that rare occasion when someone else answers the phone, we stammer all over ourselves trying to make conversation.

Small talk? A lost art.

Now, thanks to Facebook, I can look forward to phone calls from old friends wondering why I haven't yet accepted their invitation to be Web 2.0 friends, too (Isn't the phone call enough?). Or sending messages asking an acquaintance to take an embarrassing picture down (That's not mine). Or would-be fan mail posted on my wall for anyone to see (No, voting for Barack Obama doesn't make me a socialist).

If only Seinfeld was still around to deal with this.

Bottom line: Texting is for chicks, Facebook is for teens, and nobody is going to convince me otherwise. But that isn't stopping more and more folks my age from trying.

I've got four words for them: