ArLynn Presser is a 51-year-old woman who lives in Winnetka, Illinois. It’s normal for ArLynn to stay indoors all the time. In fact, for most of her adult life, she hardly ever left the confines of her home, and most certainly did not venture out of her home town. Her career as a writer ensured that she could spend her life indoors and still get things done. If this sounds strange to you, you must know that ArLynn suffers from agoraphobia – the fear of crowded places or enclosed public spaces.
Like most introverts, ArLynn interacts with people online and she has 325 friends she chats with on Facebook. Last year, she went and did something that no one could have ever expected. She made a resolution to meet all 325 of her Facebook friends in person, the following year. She wrote a blog post about it and then set about achieving her goal. She called her project “Face to Facebook”.
For a person who was terrified of flying and could never get on a plane before, this was certainly a daunting task. In the end, she did a great job, traveling over 13 countries and taking over 39 flights. By the end of 2011, she had met 292 friends, about 90% of what she had intended to. ArLynn had been to Taiwan, Korea, Philippines, Dubai, Italy, Malaysia, Ireland, England, Germany and four other countries.
According to Presser, this was something she just had to do, to make a drastic change in her life. She said, “A lot of it was just realizing that with my sons gone, I was spending a lot more time alone and a lot more time in front of the computer.” Of the 325 people she had decided to meet, a few were her old friends from high school and college. A few weren’t keen on her idea of ‘meeting’ and unfriended or blocked her, 18 people ignored her repeated requests to meet, two were profiles of pets, and five people had passed away.
Meeting her Facebook friends was not always easy and she sometimes found herself in the middle of an anxiety attack. For instance, when one hairdresser friend offered to cut her hair, the skin on her face, chest and arms broke into hives. Sometimes she would face emotional breakdowns and moments of panic. For safety reasons, she always had a chaperon with her, and made sure the meetings were conducted in public.
Despite all the problems she faced, ArLynn did seem to have some wonderful moments. One of her friends taught her how to open a champagne bottle with a sabre. She also learned opera singing, trained to be a bodyguard, rode in a motorcycle sidecar, took Zumba lessons and climbed a mountain in California – all with her Facebook friends. Quite a year, I must say! Now her incredible experience has inspired a documentary called “Face to Facebook“, about Facebook, anxiety, and the power of social media to inspire great personal change.