If you’re like most people nowadays, you may have hundreds of Facebook friends, plus lots of acquaintances you stay in touch with via other online social networks or e-mail. But when was the last time you actually got together with any of these people offline? That’s where Meetup.com comes in. With 7.2 million members and 79,000 local groups, it’s a fun, simple way for anyone with a hobby or interest to find others in their area who enjoy the same thing and then meet up.
The easiest way to explain how it works is to introduce Cheri Rosen, an elementary school teacher in Staten Island, New York. She loves playing strategy board games, ranging from Trivial Pursuit and Cranium to such modern classics as Settlers of Catan and Stone Age. She used to play regularly with a group in Edison, New Jersey, but when health problems curtailed her driving about a year ago, she used Meetup to search for a group closer to home. When she didn’t find one, she started her own.
“I decided, well, if I build it, they will come,” she says.
And they did. Anywhere from 15 to 20 adults typically gather at the Panera Bread bakery-cafe on Marsh Avenue in Staten Island every Sunday around 1 p.m., order coffee and sandwiches, and commence playing a variety of games that sometimes continue until closing at 9 p.m.
Not only did Meetup help Rosen connect with these people, but it also enables them to stay in touch and plan future get-togethers. On the website you can get recommendations for where to host your get-together, too. That’s how Rosen found Panera Bread.
“We were originally playing in a pizzeria that didn’t have any air-conditioning,” she explains. “Then another place wanted to charge us $80. But then the New Jersey board gamers recommended Panera Bread, so I called the one in Staten Island and they said ‘Come on over!’”
You and your group are just as welcome at your neighborhood Panera Bread bakery-cafe. At this time, tt doesn’t cost anything to join Meetup and search for groups, but if you’d like to start your own, the monthly pricing plan is nominal.