The Internet, among its many blessings, has given us Meetup.com. For someone like me who wants people to play with, Meetup.com is wonderful. I know someone who has signed on with fifty-two groups. Fifty-two! In fact, I met her today at a meet-up. We were on a five-mile walk. She was wearing four layers of clothing, scarf, gloves, and a fanny pack. One of her layers was a Christmas sweater. When I commented on that, she said “Well, yes. It’s winter!” That took me aback a little, because it feels like spring to me, but I didn’t say so. I think people get tired of hearing how it’s not really very cold from people who can trump every cold weather story they tell.
If I looked hard enough, I could probably find a meetup group for people who want to tell cold weather stories. So far, I have signed on with a mid-week hiking group, a we’ll-walk-unless-we-get-tired-and-then-we’ll-take-a-break group, a choir that doesn’t appear to be singing right now, a group of people looking for travel partners, and a group of people aged 60+ who meet for dinner. The more I look around the site, the more groups I think I’d like to join. I usually have to consult oracles and spend three days persuading myself to go to social events, so this is a huge breakthrough. The joy of it is that no-one cares if I don’t go, but they are delightfully friendly if I do go. The pressure is off.
Yesterday I was chatting with a friend who found it difficult to make the first contact with dating site matches. He is not shy, and he has great conversational skills, so the hesitance is a mystery. It might be the fear of rejection, of course, but he’s been around the block a few times, so I don’t think it is that either. It is an invisible barrier that we put in front of ourselves. It is a sign that says “Oh, why bother. Just stay home and watch a movie. No pressure.” The resistance we feel is a kind of performance anxiety.
Meetup.com, whether intentionally or not, has removed that barrier. It’s easy to sign on to the site—no commitment required. It’s easy to search for and join groups—no actual involvement required. It’s easy to agree to attend a meet-up—just click an rsvp button. You aren’t interviewed, you aren’t approved or disapproved, you don’t even have to actually do or say anything. Step by step, without any kind of human interaction, you can become a member of a group—or fifty-two groups. You don’t even have to attend meet-ups you say you will attend. It’s expected you will attend, but there will be no public shaming if you don’t. Once a member, it’s an easy next step to actually attend an event. You know who is likely to be there, so you can choose the size of the event. You know if the activity is likely to be easy or difficult, so you can choose according to your level of comfort. At each stage, you make one simple choice.
Now I’m wondering if there could be a way to make first dates this easy. If the participation is at our comfort level and the expectations are low, I think everyone would enjoy themselves a lot more. In fact, I think we would all probably invite more people to meet up.