Through the years I have heard friends of mine talk about their “meetup groups”. Particularly for those of us who move, finding easy ways to meet people and build community is critical. But there are also other times in my life when I’ve needed to boost my community and add some new faces to the roster. People change, I change, my interests change and sometimes I just want to try something new. Thankfully, with the internet, it is much easier these days to find people of like interests. All I have to do is google kayaking in Baton Rouge, and I come up with a whole list of clubs, stores and information specific to this request.
I’ve long been interested in Meetup Groups. I signed up for some Meetup Groups in Memphis, but I never attended any of the functions. I sort of lurked on the sidelines wishing I had enough courage to attend an event. I never did. A Meetup Group is formed when anybody … somebody like you or me … decides that they need to find a group of people of like interests or needs but they don’t know where to find them. The tagline on the website is find your people. It’s easy to start a group. There is a charge, of course. In a matter of a few minutes, the “seeker” builds a group and makes it active to people who are searching for that kind of group. For instance, there are groups for dog lovers, singles, women in transition, hiking, kayaking, wine tasting and personal growth in the Baton Rouge area. There are many others, too. Those are just the ones that I’ve found given my interests. There are also Moms with kids groups, groups for atheists, and groups for swingers. If you can’t find a group for your interests, you can set up one. It’s just a way to connect with people.
So, I’ve been watching this one group in Baton Rouge and have been interested in their events. It seems like they have a lot of them, and they seem fun. Plus, you can see comments people make, so it sounds like they really like each other and have gotten a lot out of the friends they have met. I almost went to the Bonfire Festival in Lutcher with them this year, but I chickened out at the last minute. Showing up in a strange place with people unknown just sent my anxiety levels through the roof. I passed. I noticed they were going to the Red Stick Revelry on New Year’s Eve. That seemed like another anxiety-producing way to meet with them – crowds, being outside, bars, etc. So, I signed up for the Food Truck Roundup where they are all having dinner in January. That seemed less intimidating.
A few days ago, the administrator of the group sent out a note to remind members to sign up for their Facebook page, so I did. I’ve been in groups on social media where there is no activity. But not in this one. They were all talking with each other and really having a good time. One woman posted how nice everybody was when she went to her first event. I got really attracted to meeting this group. So, I got my nerve up, and I posted:
Immediately several people posted and gave me ideas on making the initial meetup more palatable. After a few minutes of online conversations, I decided to commit. It sounded fun, and I wanted to meet some new friends who were eager to make new friends. Later, they decided to have dinner beforehand and that made it even easier. I’d get to sit down and say hi and get to know a few faces before the party started.
So, I get to the dinner location, and I was nervous as heck. Luckily, it was easy enough to find the group. They were very welcoming, and I wasn’t the only newcomer there. You get to pick and choose what events you go to, of course, so there were people there with varying levels of involvement in the group, but they all really wanted to meet new people. The leader of the Meetup Group cooked a gourmet meal that was delicious, and he had it set out in the bar downtown in chafing dishes for us to eat. It was a wonderful meal, and I made some connections at dinner. We walked down the street to Happy’s Irish Pub and met another group of people who hadn’t joined us for dinner. I walked in and one of the women said, “Are you Sharon?” I said, yes, and she said she recognized me from Facebook, and we made fast friends. She’s interested in some of the same things I am, and we hope to get together to kayak soon. She also told me about the Louisiana Hiking Club, and I’m going to sign up for that.
In this group, there were couples and singles of all ages from late 20s to 60s. Mostly professional people, they had lots going on in their lives. I asked everybody why they were attracted to a Meetup Group, and there were a variety of answers. Many were new to the area or had been new to the area when they joined. Some were recently divorced and needed to create a new community. Others had plenty of friends but had struggled to find other people that like to get out and do fun things. They were very interesting and very nice people.
I’m not a big bar person since I don’t drink, but I had a great time. I’m looking forward to some of the other things they do. They have a night where they play music together and gather at someone’s home. Sometimes they go out to eat. The leader of the group has done this before, and he apparently keeps it interesting and finds a variety of things to do. And, he loves to cook and cooks for them often. I was also informed of other Meetup Groups that are good, and I hope to try them out too. There’s one for walking and biking, but they don’t really start up again until spring. I got a lot of ideas for meeting people.
My first Meetup experience was very good. I do know that some groups aren’t as active. The thing about a group is it’s only as good as its members, so a Meetup Group will be no different. I talked to my friend Micheal who just moved to Houston and encouraged him to take a look at Meetup.com to see if there were any groups there they might be interested in joining. If nothing else, somebody there may give him ideas of other things to do. And, who knows, you might even have a good time. So, my mind is percolating now on what kind of Meetup group might be interesting for me to start. What about a Meetup group that explores the country roads of Louisiana and Mississippi? How about one for bloggers? There’s already one for serious writers, but they were way too serious for me. I love the idea. It takes some of the hassle out of getting connected. It is efficient. I love that.