“Meetup Mad” – a year ago, that’s how my friend Natascha jokingly described me. At that time, she hadn’t even heard of Meetups. I’m surprised at how many people still haven’t.
Last year, I went to my first Meetup in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Five people showed up and we all went for a brisk walk around the Nature Trail by the Rio Grande. I got some exercise and met some new folks.
Since then, I’ve discovered that there’s at least one if not twenty different Meetup groups for just about anything you can think of. Sweat it out in a game of badminton for $7; learn to salsa with a pro for $10; join a writing workshop for free –there is even a Meetup for pole dancing. If a group doesn’t exist on a particular activity, you can organize one!
I’ve joined Meetups for screenwriting, art appreciation, poker, foodies, hiking, Spanish conversation, and, of course, acting. It’s been a fantastic way to hone skills, learn new things, get a workout and network.
As for meeting a new love interest, it is, in my opinion, far superior to “messaging” and “poking” some individual who may or may not look act or think like they describe themselves in their profile. Indeed, if that’s what you’re looking for, there are singles and dating Meetups as well. This way, you can chat with people in a group environment first, rather than meeting up one-on-one right away.
Joining a Meetup group is great deal. Why? Because it is free. Many times, the Meetups organized by the group are also free. Other times, the group will get a rate for a professional or an expert and there may be a small charge.
Some groups have chosen to charge members small dues ranging from $3 to $10 for charges incurred by organizers, like refreshments, space rental, etc. Still others have tiers of membership, with some being free and others incurring a small fee.
Since last year, I’ve met some super nice people, and had a barrel of laughs. I also happen to be convinced that Meetups are good for our society. In these hard times, it’s important to stay connected to others and not become isolated.
Back in 2003, I heard about a book called,”Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.” by Robert Putnam. Putnam shows good evidence to show that folks in the U.S. of A. just don’t talk to each other anymore. Social clubs, sports leagues, political organizations and all manner of shindigs and get-togethers are on the wane. It’s rare that many people even sit down for a family meal or have friends over.
In the days following 9/11, Scott Heiferman, now the CEO of Meetup, noticed how friendly people were in the streets of New York City, how many random conversations with neighbors he had out on the street.
A week or two after that, he discovered “Bowling Alone.” All this got him to thinking about the connection between talking to strangers and trust and the cycle that ends up being created depending on the choices we make regarding social interaction. That’s how Heiferman got the idea to create Meetup.com.
Today, Meetups take place in cities and towns all over the world. According to the Trends and Stats portion of Meetup.com, people joined a Meetup group over 1 million times in January, 2012. There are over 105,000 Meetup groups worldwide.
Just maybe, we’re all starting to talk. Now that, my friends, is the best deal ever.
NEED TO KNOW:
Create an account with a profile. It’s free! You can even add an app to your iPhone or other smart phone that has a nifty little menu on it. There, you can easily see all the events your groups are having on any given day. You can RSVP to a Meetup and even add it to your calendar! Later, you can comment on your experience and add photos too.
(Jennifer Caldwell is a an actress and an active member of SAG-AFTRA, serving on several committees. She is a published author of short stories and news articles and is a featured contributor to CityWatch. Her column at www.RecessionCafe.wordpress.com is dishing up good deals, recipes and food for thought. Jennifer can be reached at email@example.com.) –cw
Vol 10 Issue 58
Pub: July 20, 2012