Friday, September 30, 2011

Connecting in Real Life

Real-life Meetups Make the World a Better Place

When I first heard about "Meetup," I had no idea why or how it started, but it sounded like a neat idea. Then a few days before the tenth anniversary of 9/11, an email arrived from Meetup co-founder and CEO, Scott Heiferman. I was so impressed, I asked if I could share it — but in order for it to not get lost in a sea of 9/11 posts and reflections, I wanted to let some time elapse.

His message reminded me of two things: the tragedy of 9/11 changed life forever in the United States, but some goodness resulted; and the importance of real-life, or as my friend, Jake, likes to say — "tangible," connections need nurturing in order for each of us to thrive.

Scott's message:


Scott Heiferman, CEO
and co-founder, Meetup
Fellow Meetuppers,  

I don't write to our whole community often, but this week is special because it's the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and many people don't know that Meetup is a 9/11 baby. 

Let me tell you the Meetup story. I was living a couple miles from the Twin Towers, and I was the kind of person who thought local community doesn't matter much if we have the internet and TV. The only time I thought about my neighbors was when I hoped they wouldn't bother me.  

When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors in the days after 9/11 than ever before. People said hello to neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they'd normally ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each other, and meeting up with each other. You know — being neighborly.  

A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring people together in a lasting way. So the idea for Meetup was born: Could we use the internet to get off the internet — and grow local communities? We didn't know if it would work. Most people thought it was a crazy idea — especially because terrorism is designed to make people distrust one another.  

A small team came together, and we launched Meetup nine months after 9/11. 

Today, almost 10 years and 10 million Meetuppers later, it's working. Every day, thousands of Meetups happen. Moms Meetups, Small Business Meetups, Fitness Meetups... a wild variety of 100,000 Meetup Groups with not much in common — except one thing: 

Every Meetup starts with people simply saying hello to neighbors. And what often happens next is still amazing to me. They grow businesses and bands together, they teach and motivate each other, they babysit each other's kids and find other ways to work together.  

They have fun and find solace together. They make friends and form powerful community. 

It's powerful stuff.  

It's a wonderful revolution in local community, and it's thanks to everyone who shows up. 

Meetups aren't about 9/11, but they may not be happening if it weren't for 9/11.  

9/11 didn't make us too scared to go outside or talk to strangers. 9/11 didn't rip us apart. No, we're building new community together!  

The towers fell, but we rise up. And we're just getting started with these Meetups.

Scott Heiferman (on behalf of 80 people at Meetup HQ) 
New York City
September 2011


I spend more and more of each day on my computer and mobile devices. On a recent weekend away from the Internet (AT&T provided no service to the area) I traded off driving in order to use my iPhone until the moment I went off the grid. 

Scott's email is a reminder to all of us of the importance of our connections to others. This past month I made an effort to spend some quality time with friends, and really be present. Getting together face-to-face takes a lot more time and energy than firing off an email, making a phone call or posting a tweet, but for the added effort, the reward is huge.

I'm glad Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels exist because it means no one ever has to "feel" alone. But 10 years after 9/11, maybe it's time to venture out into the real world, take a chance and engage. 

Meetup seems like a really cool place to start.


Real face time with friends the past month:

Doug Plummer

Dave Morris

Sean Gardner

George Zaharoff, Piccolo Zaharoff, Cindy Chin

Linda Criddle

Kathy Gill (l.)

Chris Pirillo (l.) Chris Widener (r.)

Glen, Paula, and Vic

Chris Burget and Lori McNee

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