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COWBOY LOGIC: Socially networked

TOWNER, N.D. -- Seems like the old 3-pound coffee can is lasting a little longer these days. Sure, we still make a pot every morning, but we hardly ever have to brew another pot later in the day to share with friends that might drop by.

TOWNER, N.D. -- Seems like the old 3-pound coffee can is lasting a little longer these days. Sure, we still make a pot every morning, but we hardly ever have to brew another pot later in the day to share with friends that might drop by.

Growing up, I often remember there being a friend or neighbor stopping by to park their feet under our kitchen table and wrap their fingers around a hot cup of my mother's famous boiled coffee. They'd visit awhile, catching up on the latest news, the rain report, who was doing what where and sometimes something a little deeper about our existence here on earth.

That doesn't seem to happen much anymore. People are busier, I guess. You can drop in on folks, but chances are nobody's home. Jobs in town to support the smaller farms and ranches, or bigger farms and ranches that don't allow folks to slow down the work long enough to visit. When work's done, the child chasing to all their sports and activities begins.

Still, people are social critters, so there needs to be an outlet somewhere. Usher in the computer, the Internet and something called Facebook.

Adding virtual friends

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If the term Facebook leaves you blank, you're obviously not one of the 250 million active users the social network lays claim to.

It used to be a college-age thing, but now, the fastest-growing demographic of Facebookers is age 35 and older. The fastest-growing group is women older than 55. Grandma wants to see pictures of those grandkids . . . now!

I'm not sure how I got hooked. Drawn in by all of the buzz, I guess. My wife got on the site more when her 20-year high school reunion was being organized, mostly via Facebook.

So even though we're all too busy to visit people in person, or write a letter, or even call them on the phone, we find a half-hour or an hour each day to stare at Facebook walls on the computer screen.

It's not all bad. In my older years, my stack of birthday cards in the mailbox was down to one or two from my sister and a dedicated aunt. This year, on Facebook, I got 43 greetings on my birthday. I don't think I've ever had that many well-wishers of my aging process, even when I was 5 and birthdays were a big deal.

But if you Google "facebook addiction," you get more than 17 million links, so I guess that's an issue. Students are updating their Facebook pages during class, employees are logging in on the job when they're supposed to be working, kids are going hungry while moms check the profiles of old boyfriends. Like everything, a little moderation is in order.

Maybe letter writing was considered an addiction years ago. Kids probably were writing long, cursive notes and addressing envelopes in the middle of class. Addicts were spending their egg money on postage stamps and ink for their fountain pens.

It has been fun to catch up with old friends and distant relatives thanks to the Internet age. It's nice to see the photos of their families, find out their favorite quote and 25 obscure things about themselves.

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But if someone's in the neighborhood, I'd still like to brew a pot of coffee and have a good, old-fashioned, off-line chat.

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