Schools out, the all-nighters are over, you have a professional job in your field, and you’re officially an adult. But something is missing….Sure, you love hanging with your coworkers at happy hour, and you enjoy venting with your workout partner—but maybe boredom is creeping in? Self- help books and magazines advise an array of ideas for you to spice up your social life such as taking classes, volunteering, or joining a dining club. However, I have a better idea: Try out Meetup.com. And why am I recommending this to you? Well, because I’m an organizer of social group for professionals on Meetup.com
Not a Hookup Thing
When creating a vibrant social life, your goal is to find quality people—of both genders—who have common interests, enhance the quality of your life, and share common values. This is the dolce vita, the sweet life, of finding quality over quantity and not forever just looking for a date. With that said, let me introduce you to Meetup.com, an online interface for joining social groups, movie clubs, dining clubs, wine tasting clubs, singles groups, outdoor adventure clubs, and travel clubs all within your geographic area (or anywhere you’d like to travel to). If joining groups called The Cleveland Bucket List Group, Cleveland Beer Lovers Meetup Group, and the Vegan Baking and Cooking Club appeal to you, then you’re well on your way to joining some fun and wacky (and not so wacky) meetup groups.
Meetup.com is free, and you can browse the different types of groups without joining. If you want to learn more about the groups and really get an in depth idea of what they’re about, you have to join Meetup.com. You can search for clubs within so many miles of where you live, and the larger the metropolitan area the more groups there are to choose from. Searching for dining clubs in the New York City area alone produces about 494 groups to choose from!
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Fine Tuning Your Search
Once you have completed a search for a geographic area, try to scroll down to where all the meetups are listed and skip the “trending groups,” “new groups,” and “new events” listed before that. You’ll get a better idea of what groups are available. First try to see which groups will allow you access to their sites without joining. Check out their events, venues, the target age group, and most importantly, how many people show up at their meetups. Some groups have over a thousand members, but only five people will attend a meetup event. Try to look for groups with high membership to participation ratio. The groups with lots of activities going on are thriving and worth joining.
Before you join, make sure you know whether you have to pay dues for the group and know some of the road rules. My group requires members to stay active once every three months (or four times a year) and to pay dues (only after six months of being in the group). Meetup.com charges organizers $142/year to use their interface. In my opinion, it’s worth it.
And remember, variety is the spice of life—there are so many meetups to choose from that you could very well have something to do every single day of the week and there’s no cost to you unless they require an upfront fee (rarely do meetups do this).
Also when you join a group, you will have a profile page where you can link your Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, and LinkedIn, and personal email accounts. Your personal email is not optional because the group needs a way of contacting you, but no one will actually see your email address. Members can send you public greetings and private emails.
Be a Slick Socializer—Protect Yourself and Identity
Part of joining an online community is making sure that you don’t reveal too much information about yourself online. After all, as with online dating, you have no idea who some people may be (or if they are posting fake profiles). Don’t be paranoid, but be smart. Many groups require you to create a profile. Be careful of what you reveal. I’m amazed at what members tell about themselves—even I am not that open … so here are some tips:
- Don’t use your last name
- Don’t reveal where you work
- Don’t give out your personal email
- Don’t reveal your cell/landline or work phone numbers
- Be wary of members (other than the organizers) who contact you immediately through private email.
- Be wary of anyone who wants to meet you privately after you join.
Just Do It!
I’m such a fan of meetup.com because I have met some of the nicest people who have become my close friends. It’s a great way to get out of the rut of hanging out with coworkers, and it’s a great way to meet people in other professions. And sometimes as you get older and you’re still in your hometown, you tend to outgrow your early friendships. There’s nothing wrong with that because it’s part of life. Go out there and find a family outside your family!