I did two really scary things a few days ago. I went to the oral surgeon to talk about getting a tooth pulled, and I joined Facebook.

When my kids and other young people used to talk about Facebook, I never dreamed it would be something I would ever have to concern myself with. I thought I was too old, but I was wrong.

Facebook knows no age barriers. In fact, when I had to put my birth year in my profile, I wasn't even near the bottom of the list of choices. The birth years go all the way down to 1905. You can be more than 100 years old, and you're still welcome to join.

It is a big deal that I have finally caved about becoming a member of this cult because I've spent a lot of time giving really good reasons for not joining.

1. I already spend too much time online. It's how I make myself sit down at the computer to work, but then I spend so long doing the fun stuff like checking e-mail, I run out of time to get to the work.

2. My students will try to "friend" me and that relationship is not appropriate.

3. I try to stay out of my kids' lives, and Facebook is their thing.

4. I'm bad enough about keeping in contact with people I cherish. Do I really want to be in touch with someone from my past who I hardly remember?

The real reason I refused to join Facebook was that I was scared. What if I can't do it? What if I do something wrong? What if no one friends me?

A few things made me change my mind. One by one, many of my contemporaries have fallen under the FB spell. They'll tell me something interesting about a mutual friend, and when I ask how they got the information (feeling a little jealous that the friend had let them in on this news and not me) they tell me it was on her Facebook "wall." My colleagues at work are also posting notices on each others' "walls" while I'm left out in the cold.

What really turned me around, however, was when I went to a recent conference for college educators. Everyone there, young or old, was on Facebook. I am an educator, someone who should be eager to learn, to move forward. Suddenly my excuses for not joining Facebook seemed ridiculous.

Heart pounding, hands sweating, I logged on to Facebook.com. Following the steps seemed so easy, I reproached myself for having had any trepidations. Then I faced my first hurdle. Hundreds of names popped up on my list of possible friends. Don't ask me how they got there -- I didn't even recognize half of them. I wondered what the etiquette was. Was I supposed to "friend" them all, or pick and choose? I decided to start with a small experimental group.

The next step was putting up a picture of myself. I'm such a dork, I have no cool pictures to download, so I decided to use the option of taking a photo right then with my computer camera. I put on lipstick and gloss so I'd have shiny J-Lo lips, tousled my hair as best I could after wearing it in a ponytail all day and sat in front of my computer camera with my shoulders turned three-quarters and my face swiveled forward. I hear that is the most flattering pose. While smiling for posterity, I followed the directions to take a picture.

The message came back that my computer doesn't have a camera, although I had been staring at it for several minutes. I skipped the photo step. I now have one of those blue silhouettes with bangs and straight hair -- it doesn't look at all like me.

I quickly finished signing up and decided to click on "news feed." It sounded fairly legitimate and noninvasive. But my Facebook genie told me that I needed to upgrade my browser. I downloaded a new browser. It didn't work.

Facebook fear No. 1 had come true. I had wasted hours playing around with the network instead of grading papers,and I still wasn't even sure what or where my "wall" is. I signed off and decided to forget about it.

It is fun that I get messages every day from people who want to friend me. They are people I know and I get to see who else they know. That's as far as it's gone for me. I don't sign in. I don't look at my "wall." I'm still kind of scared and not quite sure of what I want to do with this thing. I tell myself that one of these weekends I'll spend some time figuring Facebook out. But meanwhile, rather than fool around with social networking, I'm happy for the excuse that I have to get back to work.

Carol Randel's Random Thoughts column appears regularly in the Westport News.