Sunday, 4 October 2015

Why Meetup is getting like Fight Club (which isn't a bad thing)

In David Fincher's nihilistic '98 classic Fight Club, The Narrator begins as a nameless insomniac who finds respite in the therapeutic environments of support groups which he finds through his doctor and listed in his local newspaper. When The Narrator finds these groups, he's instantly hooked, and no longer has to spend his evenings viewing shopping channels and placing orders on unnecessary household gadgets. He soon ditches all of these and moves on to Fight Club, which he sets up with the charismatic Tyler Durden, who he meets on a plane. They go on to have a series of strange adventures involving soap, bombs, culinary guerrilla terrorism and literal self-assault.

I've blogged a lot about social networking site Meetup over the last year. I've been keen for you to get involved. For the record, none of the events I've seen advertised involve any of the above perils. Certainly not in Manchester. However, Fight Club is a story about people finding people. The characters in the film all want to belong, to be together with others. Humans are, suffice to say, social animals. We always have been.

Whereas in the 90s older generations- like The Narrator- may have circled adverts in the local paper to check out groups and meetings, now we use the internet to filter the exact group we're looking for. This is getting easier as sites like Meetup get bigger and bigger every month, with more people signing up (Meetup has 23 million members across 179 countries), more groups being set up and more events being ran. Meetup is doing the same thing as the support groups in Fight Club (including the club of the film's title). It's bringing people together and allowing them to connect with their community. It's empowering people who may not have had the ability, or perhaps confidence, to make friends in the environments that they want prior to them joining the site. Not everybody wants to spend their evenings in the local pub. I've spoken to many people who've joined Meetup: some of them have moved to Manchester recently, others have lived here forever and are just bored of the same thing. Some are finding their mates are all settling down; others have had fall-outs here and there.

But whatever the reason, Manchester's Meetup groups are getting increasingly popular. Posh Bars: 443 Hipsters. After Work Drinks: 1718 Diamond Quayzers. 20s and 30s: 2322 people. 2967 Manchester International Party People. A scan down the What's New section on the right of each Meetup page shows a steady flow of new members joining up.

In Fight Club, the titular club moves on to Project Mayhem, where the members are given homework assignments and start to destroy their own city. Meetup thankfully lacks that nihilistic tendency. Over the last year, I've been one of a few people who have joined the meetup sites and met friends through this. I've then organised nights out away from the site with these new friends, or joined friends on their nights out, and created my own social life rather than relying on Meetup solely, or on what others may or may not be doing in my immediate locale, whether what they're doing is my kind of thing or not. If you want to go to posh bars, and you join a group titled so, you'll probably meet people who are happy to come with you to that kind of establishment when there are no events coming up in the group. You can have your own project, and create your own (legal) mayhem.

And if you happen to meet me on one of these meetups...

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