What is a "friend?" And is there a difference between "friending" and "befriending?"
Or, in other words, how has Facebook changed the landscape of human interaction, and where do the bounds of true friendship begin and end?
These are just a few of the questions that Winnetka author ArLynn Leiber Presser has been turning over in her mind since Dec. 30, when she made a New Year’s resolution to meet every one of her 330 Facebook friends--in person.
“I initially joined Facebook to keep tabs on my sons Eastman and Joseph,” Presser said. “Since then I’ve made more than 300 connections, and I realized that I don’t know many of them or, in some cases, how I wound up connected to them. That’s one of the things I’m going to explore with this project.”
The project, called Face to Facebook (f2fb), is equal parts documentary, blog, vlog and journey of self-discovery as Presser travels to meet her Facebook friends. It will take her from the East Coast to Alaska, and as far away as Mexico, Turkey, India and South Korea.
This is no small feat for a self-described agoraphobic. Presser is also afraid to fly, but she has already started to conquer her fear. She recently flew to Tallahassee to visit her biological father, Justin Leiber, in Florida.
Leiber is one Facebook connection who illustrates some troubled aspects to Presser's personal life, and she turns the camera on herself in some of her blog posts to share with her audience.
So far, Presser has already met 37 of her connections and there is no shortage of warmth and humor in her blog entries, from local photographer Tao Zhang, who talks about turning a negative event into a positive one, to Rena Leonard, a barista at the coffee shop in Winnetka and independent hairstylist. In Leonard's video interview, the two women share a few laughs as she braids Presser's hair into corn rows.
“One thing I’ve learned so far is that people are nicer to me than I realize,” Presser said. “I lost my wallet in January, and my friend Janet’s response was very unselfish.
“I've also come to realize that my happiest friends have a purpose and a passion for what they do, and it shows,” she said.
On Feb. 22, MC Kato (a.k.a., Winston Chang, a Facebook friend) will put on a private concert at Presser's home in Winnetka. The original concert was scheduled to occur earlier this month but the Feb. 1 blizzard forced a cancellation.
“It was meant to be a send-off for the purpose of saying 'auf Wiedersehen' to a traveler,” Presser said. “It’s now more of a 'welcome back for a few days in between travels.' ”
You can watch Presser's journey continue to unfold on her blog: http://arlynnpresser.wordpress.com/
Presser has written 27 novels under the pen name Vivian Leiber, and recently authored two history books for the series Images of America: one on Winnetka and the other on Northfield.