All over Brisbane, strangers with similar interests are connecting and forming new communities via the internet thanks to community site Meetup.
In the ending to A Streetcar Named Desire, Vivien Leigh playing the role of Blanche Dubios smiles and says her final and very famous line, “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers,” and throughout Brisbane, strangers are meeting, sharing and enjoying each other’s company and it is all thanks to technology.
Pug owners, writers, geeks, atheists, philosophers, bush walkers, movie buffs and more are meeting with a shared interest on the social online site Meetup. It is using technology for good instead of evil; bringing communities together and people from all walks of life that might not necessarily cross paths due to their occupations, localities or age. Meetup is now in 129 countries, there are 4118 Meetup groups in Australia and Brisbane currently has 729 groups. If you can’t find a shared interest there, then you can start your own Meetup group.
Nathalie Prince, a lively 30 year old, landed on our shores fresh from London not knowing anyone. She is one of the founding members of the Flirty 30s, a spin-off social group she started after joining Meetup online.
“We are one of the smaller groups; we had 120 members when we started, now we are up to 220,” she says. Yes, apparently 220 people meeting for drinks and outings is a small number! The group consists of singles and couples and a few who shy either side of 30. “We’re social butterflies: one day we’re at the races, then after work drinks, a fashion show or the State of Origin. Our next event is a spin the bottle party!” It is a good outlet for Prince whose day job as a marketer for the charity, Australia’s CEO Challenge, promotes the prevention of domestic violence.
Psychologist and retired counsellor Lee Finn wanted to meet writers. Looking online, she found a writers’ group in need of an organiser and promptly put her hand up.
“I’ve always had an interest in writing and I have more time on my hands now to pursue it,” Finn says. “We only take eight in the group and we have screenwriters, short story writers and all types of genres. I like the small groups, everyone gets a chance to participate and I’ve come to enjoy talking and listening about the art of writing more than writing itself.”
Dog Meetup groups are extremely popular on Meetup and you would be forgiven for thinking there was a pug invasion at Brighton on Sunday morning.
Pug owner Jarrod McGregor discovered Meetup through a friend. “I like the group as it gives Polly (the pug) a chance to meet other pugs,” he says. By day, Jarrod works as a sea freight supervisor for an international logistics company, but thanks to Meetup, not only Polly gets to socialise.
American Scott Heiferman co-founded Meetup nine months after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Heiferman lived a couple of kilometres from the Twin Towers and says prior to this, the only time he thought about his neighbours was when he hoped they wouldn’t bother him. Heiferman says after 9/11 neighbours began to talk and nine months after, Meetup was launched to grow local communities. It is still growing 11 years later.
New York Based, Meetup community specialist Alex Finger agrees Meetup is a good use of technology.
“Meetup helps people use the internet to get off the internet,” he says. “I’ve seen Meetup Groups about some pretty interesting topics like dog yoga, underwater hockey, home food fermentation, freeganism (the practice of reclaiming and eating food that has been discarded – yes, seriously), players of the shakuhachi (a Japanese flute) and quidditch (a competitive broomstick-based sport in the wizarding world of Harry Potter for those not in the ‘know’).
For readers worried about security, you can opt to use your name or a nickname, show your email address or not. So as the saying goes, don’t be a stranger.
To find a Meetup Group near you, visit: www.meetup.com/find/ and you will be directed to a page which highlights local Meetup groups and popular topics. You can filter Meetup groups by category, postcode or enter a specific search term. Click on the ‘Search’ button to find the best matches in your area.