In the military world, fewer adjectives can sum up a variety of situations better than the word “new.” Each day, new Soldiers arrive for duty at new military installations. Sweethearts become new military spouses. Some of them become new parents. Soldiers who return from downrange face new challenges in the private and working worlds. Sometimes Soldiers are just looking for new, constructive ways to occupy their time.
For all the “news” that may exist, there is a common thread that links them together: The more, the merrier. This is the general concept behind New York-based Meetup, the world’s largest network of local groups.
“Our mission is to have Meetups everywhere about most everything,” said Kathryn Fink, community development lead. “It’s really our goal to make it possible for anyone, anywhere to be able to build communities.”
In spite of how the name might sound, meetup.com is not a dating site.
“We get that all the time,” laughed Fink. “We like to think of this as the best possible way for you to find people in your neighborhood that share your passions. No matter what your passion is, it is our hope that you can find a local group. If not, we make it easy for you to get one started.”
By starting or joining a local meetup group, people get the chance to make new friends that share common interests, whatever they may be.
“We have a lot of broad groups such as New in Town,” said Fink. “That tends to be a very popular topic, and there are tons of meetup groups that revolve around just that.”
According to Fink, the most popular types of meetup groups involve moms. Within that topic, women can find groups for play dates, stroller walks or simple support for new mothers.
There are also many niche groups to be found at meetup.com. In the Clarksville/Hopkinsville/Fort Campbell area alone, there are meetups such as the Sci-Fi Campbell Group, Clarksville Area RPG (role playing game) Group and the Clarksville Boardgames and Cardgames Group.
“Once you start getting involved in meetups, you’ll invariably start to find groups that you never set out to find,” said Fink. “But you stumble upon them and it’s like the perfect fit for you. You may end up acquiring new interests, and meeting new people along the way.”
For those who don’t find a group that caters to their interests, Fink says that creating a new group is quite easy.
“If you’re on any page in meetup, you’ll see a Start Group button at the top,” said Fink. “It’s a pretty quick wizard to get you set up.”
Subscription fees vary depending on the selected package, but average around $12 per month.
“We also make it possible for organizers to collect event or membership dues, if they so desire,” said Fink.
Once a group page is established, an organizer can tag it with topic words to make it easy for potential members to find. Finally, a meetup employee will actually alert people in the area about the new group.
“There’s lots of discovery going on at our website,” said Fink. “We’re not just a tool, we’re a network of interconnected communities.”
Building a community that encourages face-to-face interactions and the sharing of mutual interests is the ultimate goal of meetup.com, a site whose tagline is “Use the Internet – to get off the Internet.”