It all started innocently enough.

I received an invitation from a childhood acquaintance to join Facebook. A bit hesitant at first - I was, after all, in a very happy monogamous relationship with e-mail - I complied.

And, then went off on vacation to Greenland.

When I returned a week later, I discovered there were 127 individuals who wanted to be my "friend." I glowed over my newfound popularity.

I wrote back to one person, a delightful former student whom I hadn't seen in 20 years, apologizing for being tardy in my response.

"I was in Greenland," I explained.

The next day, I awoke to find messages ("Wow! Greenland!" "Send photos!") from 27 friends, 15 former students and three total strangers I think might have been from Azerbaijan. (I quickly learned how to send private messages to one person.)

Long-lost friends, parents of those long-lost friends, relatives and students - some who never spoke in class - have friended me. It's refreshing to see them all, regardless of age, wanting to be a part of this new community.

And I've enjoyed the news they've shared: A job promotion, a serious illness beaten, pictures from their overseas trips, children's successes ("Ashley is having her first piano concert next week," "Justin spoke his first words today"). I may be on Long Island, but I feel like I'm right there with them, even when they are in Oregon or North Carolina or Japan.

As one friend says, "Facebook is the new front porch."

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In between announcements, I look over the list of my friends' friends and am amazed at all the folks we have in common. I check out a former student who is now at the University of Wisconsin. She has 897 "friends"!

Some of my new "friends" have more impressive "friends" than I do. One, who went into the entertainment business, lists Al Pacino, Mick Jagger and Keith Olbermann. Hmmm . . . I wonder if I could trade him one of my cousins for Mick?

Alas, the problem with Facebook is that it's addictive. I can sit for hours at the screen, and every two minutes there is "news" from someone, somewhere.

I'm not sure if I will stay with Facebook. Some of the announcements I get - "I think I'll take a nap today" or "Wonder if it will rain" are time-consuming to read, with little payoff. I might quit and go back to the easier world of e-mail.

But, first, I want to hear how Ashley did in that piano recital.