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By Frank Thomas Croisdale

It seems hard to believe, but just a few short years ago I had no idea what Facebook was. I was unaware just how blissful that ignorance was. I naively thought that e-mail and voicemail -- those were very primitive means of communication, kids -- were the be-all, end-all ways of sharing messages, thoughts and ideas with friends and strangers alike.

Was I a rube.

Then my good friend Colleen Kulikowski created a Facebook account for me at knifepoint -- well, there was cutlery in the room -- and life, as I knew it, was over. I now think of Colleen as a very cunning dealer. You know, slip them a little weed gratis, because soon they'll be emptying the bank account to spike a vein and mainline another hit of heroin.

Since that fateful day I look at my life differently. No longer am I content to sit and wait to see whom I might come in contact with in the real world. I find that if I go too long -- say, 15 minutes -- without checking my FB updates, the world is just turning without me.

Like most people, when I first started with FB, I felt the need to grow my friends list quickly, not to appear as some sort of a loser who can't hold onto virtual friends at a pace comparable to the next guy. Now some 400 friends in, I realize that I really only know about a dozen of these people in real time and only talk to half of those on any consistent basis. In fact, nothing makes me happier than when someone "un-friends" me on FB. Tell your story walking, sucker -- I probably couldn't pick you out of a virtual line-up anyway.

However, none of that is what I came here to talk about today. The message of today's column, kiddies, is that FB is just like real life -- some people make the most of it and some people just get by.

Your FB page is a blank canvas, and all of your imagination is the palette from which you choose your paints. While some people use FB to state the same unoriginal and mundane thoughts that long ago bored anyone unfortunate enough to have been bonded to them in real life, others use the medium as a way to express themselves creatively -- while, at the same time, educating those who follow their posts.

For example, many of you may know that the Reporter's own Mike Hudson had a very successful career fronting pioneering punk rock band the Pagans. It might not surprise you to know that Mike often posts links to music that moves his soul.

You might expect Mike to post songs from a band like the Stooges, which he does. What you might not expect is links to artists like the Ruby Friedman Orchestra, the Monkees and Dean Martin.

Mike's posts prove that his tastes in music are as eclectic as the list of authors he's read.

Niagara Falls librarian Michelle Petrazzoulo also has used FB to challenge and educate her followers. During the recent national "Banned Books Week," she used her page to post books that have been censored and to list the reasons why they were challenged at various libraries across America.

Among the titles cited were "The Golden Compass," challenged for "inappropriate content and subject matter," and "Fahrenheit 451," which was banned for "offensive language and content" -- ironic, since the book is about censorship.

Just as ironic is the fact that the Twilight and Harry Potter series have come under recent heavy fire for having "unchristian" themes, while the Holy Bible itself has been banned by various governments around the globe.

Kinda makes you want to embrace the words of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas:

"If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable."

Patricia Castillo is the type of person Niagara Falls needs living in its neighborhoods. She is active in the community, including the block clubs and the movement to prevent contaminated fracking wastewater from being shipped to our water treatment plant from other communities.

The issue that concerns Patricia most is the abundance of convicted pedophiles and sexual predators taking up residence here in the Cataract City. Recently she posted a YouTube video, set to the backdrop of "Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood" from "Sesame Street," which showed the faces and housing of some of LaSalle's most heinous pedophiles. Included was the former band teacher at LaSalle High School who was convicted of having sex with his former 15-year-old student.

What's especially scary about the video is that all of the men shown live in multi-unit apartment buildings or motels where children also reside. Who were the politicians who voted to allow these lowlifes to be shipped here from other communities?

Women seem to spend a lot of time on FB posting about food. You'll see them waxing poetic about what salivating concoction they are planning for dinner -- when it's not even past the breakfast hour.

Alyson Diffin is one of those women and one of my closest friends. She has a lot of interests, but none more cherished than her love of food. By which I mean shopping for it, prepping it, cooking it, eating it -- and maybe, above all else, talking about it.

Alyson is a health nut and she has figured out a lot of cool ways to cook bad foods and make them good for you.

As a result of that edible addiction, Alyson designed the "Food Lovers Unite" FB page, where the Larry Flynts of the "food porn" world can post their most scintillating photos of immoral eats. Even as I type these words, Alyson has just posted a picture of a deliciously rich pumpkin cheesecake, and it didn't take as much time as it takes to whip an egg for Michelle to ask the natural followup question: "Does it have Ginger Cookie crust?"

To steal a great line about songwriting from John Prine that applies equally to column writing, "You'd better have a good ending or it better have a moral -- so here's the moral of this one":

If you're not on Facebook, you're nowhere, and if you are on FB, gravitate to the people who post things that move you -- otherwise you're just wasting precious time out in the real world.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Oct. 18, 2011