What do you mean, there’s no flying cars? Don’t you see me in my INVISIBLE FLYING CAR, gallivanting about with my virtual map in pursuit of geeky good times while multitasking my messages and receiving event reminders from social networks on my mobile phone?
Oh, you didn’t see that? Well alright, the flying car is fake. We almost coulda built it, but nobody thought to factor lawyers and bureaucrats into the equation. However. The GPS is real. The phone is real. Pidgin is real. And Meetup is most definitely real.
With all the technological wonders, I could almost forgive myself for the mounting pile of untended-to items on my desk–it’s not me, it’s this silly paper technology. Very outmoded. Really it’s just that my life is kind of on pause right now and I’m not taking the unsettled aspect as well as I ought. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Point being, I should by rights have stumbled onto meetup a long time ago. I managed to brush past it even at times when I was desperate for a better way to escape the bubble and meet more nerdy girls. Conceptually, it’s leaps and bounds beyond even the most feature-rich and well-thought-out dating sites, for the simple reason that in the end, all that electronic analysis and convenient browsing only highlights how much you hate going to the trouble of actually making a first date with a stranger, and serves to help you identify excuses not to meet someone.
What you probably wanted (the girls seem more conscious of this than the boys, but it generally holds true for both) was to have some level of actual face-to-face acquaintance before the first date, so as to take the pressure off and let you know what to expect. And the only way to get that is to meet at something like a singles party.
Enter the wide world of Meetup, a site that helps people find gatherings and interest groups in their hometown. Singles is just one of maybe a hundred topics, but there are singles groups all over this city. The site is prolific, and it’s only going to become more so as time goes on. It was Meetup that Ron Paul’s supporters used recently to stage a fundraiser of historic proportions, without any leadership from the Ron Paul campaign. Heaven help the candidate who attracts the ire of those Netizens ’08–he (or she) may find himself the subject of simultaneous flash-mob protests in multiple cities.
Meetup is the kind of site I adore–one that brings real and clearly visible power to the masses, not just to some priesthood of web hackers who are then charged with figuring out what it’s really good for. Google Maps has been useful to social activists, but let’s be honest, that wasn’t what it was designed for. It took some Kenyan bloggers and their hacker friends to sort that out. If we struck Fox News and MoveOn from the face of the Earth tomorrow (and don’t you wish we could), grassroots action like that found on meetup might well become a dominating factor in the election. It is, by design, an engine of social change, bringing us back once more to a small world where people matter.