How Pittsburgh meetups changed my life
Recently, I was informed by the message board of the Pittsburgh hiking meetup group that there was a recent local article about Pittsburgh meetups, and it quoted one of the organizers of the hiking meetup, Jennifer Braun (who happens to be one of us participating in a beautiful New Year hike led by Gary Byrdman that Abby and I went on):
People should try new things, because it can change their life," she says. "It sounds kind of happy sunshine, but hiking changed my life. And I never knew until someone told me to try it. Find the thing that you love -- hiking, biking, quilting -- it's just everything you could think of. Once you're in one group and start looking around, you can really meet new people and do new things and get more out of life.
I was really moved by what she said, because my own immediate thought also when thinking about Meetup is that it changed my life. How so?
Life before Meetup
Yes, there was life before Meetup, which I joined over six years ago, on December 28, 2007.
I did manage to find out about things to do, people to meet, etc., through friends who were already involved in various activities.
I also did this by myself through Web searches, such as finding out about the Pittsburgh Chess Club in 2005 by discovering its own Web site, and finding out about the Pittsburgh Recorder Society also through its own Web site.
Transitions to Meetup
Some activities I participated in before Meetup existed became more popular and drew more people as a result. For example, I had been hiking with many of the people in the Pittsburgh hiking meetup group for a couple of years, through the Sierra Club Allegheny Group outing listings, before Meetup existed and before these wonderful volunteers joined Meetup and started advertising hikes there as organizers. Also, I personally witnessed the explosion in popularity of the Pittsburgh Ruby and Pittsburgh Python groups when they joined Meetup.
I think this illustrates the power of there being a common platform that everyone uses and therefore can get “suggestions” (based on what you put down as areas of interest in your profile) and notifications that one’s friends has joined a newly created meetup group. I have definitely joined many meetup groups that were not on my radar until I got notified through the Meetup platform.
My Meetup life
I just checked and it looks like I’m currently a member of forty (!) meetup groups. This is a pretty extreme number, but in reality, of course, many of these groups are groups I’ve never actually attended an event of, and some groups I participate in much more than others. On average, however, I’d say I attend an average of one Meetup event a week. For example, this month of January so far, I’ve already attended four Meetup events, and am already scheduled to attend another one next week, still this month, and there may be others I will attend in addition as well (for example, I’m currently considering attending an event on Sunday).
Multiply that by six years and that’s probably around three hundred Meetup events I’ve been to, apparently, since joining. Meetup is clearly a pretty substantial part of my life.
One benefit of Meetup is that even if I’m not interested in or as devoted to something right now, I know that if I wanted to, there is a community out there for it. The sense of not being alone is really reassuring, in a world in which I had found it difficult, as an introvert, to stay up to date with what’s going on locally that I might find of interest. For example, if I ever wanted to learn Japanese or explore Japanese culture more (to pick a random topic), I am pretty sure that I could find a Japanese meetup group and join and find out what they’re doing, and basically be encouraged to show up at an event and start meeting people. The Meetup platform allows me to check something out without investing a lot into it up front; and because the events are publicized, and signing up puts a name and profile to your face, there is a sense in which the situation just feels far less anxious than if you were to show up somewhere and not have any idea how many people were going or even exactly where to meet. The Meetup platform provides so much information that really decreases the risks or anxieties I’ve sometimes had before Meetup.
Before Meetup, it took a lot of time and energy just to maintain connections with particular communities of interests and activities, and therefore I think one had to be much more limited. Now, I can explore a much wider set of interests, if I choose to. (It turns out, ironically, that I explored extremely widely in the past two or three years, but have deliberately been pruning back considerably in favor of more depth and also more personal time at home.)
Abby and I have also done things on our own that were inspired by official Meetup events that we could not or did not attend. Basically, you can find out about places to visit, restaurants to eat at, concerts to attend, and all kinds of other stuff, just by watching what goes on through Meetup.
Meetup has been a permanent part of my life since I joined in 2007. It is a fantastic concept whose success is totally deserved. I tell all my friends, when they relocate, or even think about moving somewhere, to check out local Meetup groups and join them. There’s no better way to quickly get started in meeting new people who share your interests or values, or explore outside your current circle. I am grateful to founders of Meetup for helping to socially connect people in a world that often seems too big and fragmented.
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