– by Cam Clark
One of the most prominent complaints I hear against social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter is that they actually make us less social. They suck you into interacting on a superficial, virtual basis rather than face-to-face.
There are arguments for and against this thought process, but for the past ten years one social network has been quietly and successfully nullifying these two assertions right under our noses by creating a network of people who meet virtually and congregate physically.
Meetup.com is one of the rare websites that actually encourages people to meet in real life. The website aims to help people create communities unified by a common interest, such as: politics, books, sports, movies, health, pets, jobs or other hobbies. Members just enter their ZIP code or their city and the topic they want to meet about, and the site helps them arrange a place and time to meet.
Meetup’s mission is “To revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.”
This under-recognized social networking site is the world’s largest network of local groups, with people getting together somewhere on the planet every 13 seconds. Meetup boasts an impressive 9 million visitors per month in 45,000 cities worldwide, and has 280,000 monthly Meetups on every topic imaginable. Sure, compared to Facebook numbers, 9 million is a drop in the bucket and the site could use a visual overhaul, but just because this site has been outshined by others does not mean you should ignore it.
I personally have made some great connections through this site, and in a very short time frame. I’ve pub-crawled with the “20 and 30 somethings in Portland,” happy-houred with the “Happy Hour Aficionados of Portland,” run with the “NoPo Run Club” and even sung my face off with the “Portland Karaoke Singles.” There is so much fun to be had.
If you don’t think you have time to check it out, do me a favor. Go to meetup.com, enter in a topic that interests you and your zip code, and just see what comes up. If you are unable to find anything interesting, come to one of our PR 3.0 meetings and I will buy you a beer. Or, maybe, just maybe, you will find a group of people that will forever change your life. Either way, what do you have to lose?