Making some new friends on Facebook

I’ve been making some new friends.
Facebook friends.
I’m a newcomer to this cyber networking thing. But I decided to give it a try.
Last week, I had two experiences that led to the decision to start my own Facebook page. First, I heard a segment on National Public Radio where up-and-coming political leaders talked about how they were connected technologically. One of them boasted of how many Facebook friends he had.
Later that same day, I had a parent tell me a scary story of how she discovered her daughter and a friend had hooked up, via MySpace, another social network on the Internet, with some older boys from a different town. The mom told me the girls had presented themselves as older than they were on their MySpace pages. The boys, who were teenagers, and the girls, who portrayed themselves as 14 or 15, made plans to meet. The girls were actually 12 and 13.
After the fact, the parents of the girls found out about what happened. Actually, nothing happened. At least, thankfully, nothing bad. The girls drove around town with the boys, but that was it.
The parents, however, were understandably upset and concerned.
That got me thinking.
I have four children, and I knew each one of them had their own Facebook page. But what were they talking about with their Facebook friends? I had checked out my kids’ Facebook pages before, but I didn’t visit them very often, and I didn’t monitor what they were talking about.
My two oldest children are 20 and 18, and I wasn’t as worried about them, since they are adults, or almost adults. But my two youngest daughters are 15 and 13, closer to the vulnerable ages of the two girls the concerned parent told me about.
With that as a motivator, I decided to enter the world of Facebook.
I was aware my friend Mitch Bettis, owner/publisher of the Herald Times, had a Facebook page. In fact, he had mentioned he would receive a “posting” on his Facebook page, telling him when my son, who is a wordsmith like his old man, had written some new poetry.
So, I knew Facebook or MySpace weren’t just for kids, though the younger generation seems much more proficient at using these networking tools than many of us adults.
Actually, now that I have started a Facebook page, I’m getting into it. You can customize your page with photos. So I have photos on my page of my kids and, of course, my new puppy. And you can include all sorts of biographical information, where you went to school, your favorite movies, and … how old you are.
Of course, there’s no way to verify if the information is accurate. Essentially, if you want to create a whole new identify or fabricate information about yourself, you can do it. That’s the scary part, especially for parents.
I read a story in Saturday’s Grand Junction Daily Sentinel about a case that didn’t end as well as the one the parent here told me about. The story involved a 20-year-old man in Mesa County who was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl he had met on MySpace. According to the story, the two started communicating when the man sent her a message inviting her to be a “friend” through the popular Internet site. The story ended with a warning from the sheriff’s department for parents to monitor the “friends” their children are talking to on the Internet.
There are safeguards. You decide who will have admittance to your page, and you can limit access to information on your page. But you can also receive invitations from complete strangers, asking if you want to be their “friend,” the term used for someone who is granted entrance to your page.
There are a variety of social networks out there. Facebook and MySpace are two of the more popular ones. But just last weekend I received a “friend request” from someone I went to high school with inviting me to visit his hi5 page. That was a new one to me.
Anymore, so much social interaction, especially among the younger crowd, takes place on the Internet. So, as a parent, I decided I had better find out what’s going on out there on the Web, especially when it comes to my own kids. And, you know, now that I’ve joined in, it has given me a whole new way me to communicate with them, especially since I’m in Colorado and they are back in Kansas.
Plus, I’m learning a new language, like “being tagged” or “poked” by someone, and what it means to “post a message to someone’s wall.”
So, if you want to be a “friend,” you can find me on Facebook.

I have this habit of losing things. It’s not really losing them, so much, as leaving them behind.
For example, I’m notorious for leaving the office’s elevator key in the elevator. Or, I’m continually retracing my steps to find where I left my coffee cup.
Then there was the time I left behind the lens cap for my camera after a county commission meeting. Pat Hooker, county administrator, graciously returned the lens cap to me.
Last week, Gary Noller, the “weather guy,” who does the monthly precipitation reports for the newspaper, dropped off a reporter’s notebook for me at the office. It seems I had left behind the notebook when I took some photos at the Upper Colorado Environmental Plant Center, way back in October.
The scary thing is, I didn’t even know it was missing.

I did it again.
After attending Monday’s reception for outgoing County Commissioner Forrest Nelson, I returned to the office and realized I had left my tape recorder at the county’s administration building.
I e-mailed Pat Hooker and, sure enough, he had retrieved my tape recorder for me.
“I tried to auction it off to the highest bidder, but no takers,” Pat said. “So I guess you can have it back.”
He did add, however, if I started leaving money, not to count on the cash being returned.
No worries there, Pat. My wallet is usually empty.

Bill de Vergie, area wildlife manager for the DOW, was nice enough to invite me to take photos of the moose release last week upriver.
I was looking forward to what sounded like a great photo op. But the morning of the moose release, it was snowing pretty hard when I woke up. So I called Bill and asked about the road conditions. He the roads were snow packed, but passable.
I had another dilemma, because I was also slated to sit in on two interviews that morning for the Meeker Chamber of Commerce executive director’s position. I would have missed them had I taken Bill up on his offer.
It was one of those situations where I wanted to be at two places at the same time.
I bet I’ve had half a dozen people who drove upriver for the moose release ask me, “Where were you? I thought for sure you’d be there taking pictures.”
Or, as one person pointed out, “You’re such a flatlander.”
Guilty as charged.

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at jeff@theheraldtimes.com.