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Published February 01 2010

Gabriel: There’s no escaping Facebook; it will find you

Are you on Facebook?

I’m guessing you are. You, along with your family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors and a handful of people you’ve not seen since you were 6 years old. These days, if you’re not on Facebook, you’re like the lead characters in the zombie flick “Night of the Living Dead” – you can run all you want, but sooner or later, they’re going to get you.

Before I moved to Fargo-Moorhead, I considered it a point of pride that I had avoided Facebook at every turn. Friends and family would discuss the excitement of the social media platform in ways people describe the night a moose burst through the glass sliding doors in their living room.

I came to believe Facebook hired recruiting stalkers. They would find people close to you in your life and have them work on you. E-mails, text messages, in-home visits, weekend seminars, retreats and daily phone calls telling you how cool it was to spend eight hours on a Saturday “Facebooking” while looking up old acquaintances.

“You HAVE to join! You just HAVE to! I re-connected with my high school principal last week – I hadn’t seen him since he expelled me in 1974. We’re hooking up next Saturday at a Facebook event in Brainerd. Want to come?”

While it sounded like a Hallmark moment, I declined. And what is a Facebook event? Do people walk around brazenly sharing their status until they get friended? Being friended is Facebook’s version of branding.

I managed to remain Facebook Free until June 8, 2009, the date of my first radio program here.

Fifteen seconds into the opening theme song – I’d not even cracked the mic yet – my producer said to me, “Oh by the way, I meant to tell you … I put the program on Facebook.”

And like that, I was One of Them. It was genius. I never saw it coming. No one does.

Now that I’ve joined them, it’s been explained to me I can’t leave. Ever. I’ve asked why, and people move away from me swiftly. So, when in Rome … I’ve tried to embrace this new world and to my surprise, it’s actually been better than I imagined.

You can fertilize crops and feed purple goats in FarmVille, raise baby fish in FishVille, be hip in YoVille, own pets in PetVille, build a criminal empire in Mafia Wars, and when you’re worn out and need a break, create your own dream existence on Happy Island.

There seems to be no limit to Facebook applications. And while they provide hours of entertainment for people around the world, I’d welcome the day when Facebook pushes the application envelope a bit more to the edge.

For instance, why not create NewsVille, where you’re the editor of your own newspaper? You hire writers while building a subscription audience from people in FarmVille. You progress to advanced levels by beating other newspapers to stories you flesh out in Mafia Wars. You’re the Big Boss. You, and only you, decide what’s fit to print.

But be warned: If your writers in NewsVille fall short in the eyes of FarmVille residents and subscriptions drop, the editor may get “iced” from hit men in Mafia Wars.

It’s a cruel virtual world out there.

Christopher Gabriel is host of “The Christopher Gabriel Program” from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays on AM 970 WDAY. Read his blog at http://cgabriel.com and preview his show at www.areavoices.com/cgabriel