When Anna George moved to Jersey City in 2007 to join her fiancé, Chris, who had moved to Hudson County two years prior, she assumed that his friends would inevitably become hers and the two would have an active social life. While that assumption eventually proved to be true, George said it took a while for her to create a circle of friends of her own, independent of her relationship.
“Because Chris had already been here for a while, he already had friends at work,” George said. “He had guys who he played basketball with on the weekends. When I moved, I wasn’t working right away. So, I didn’t have work friends like he did. And a lot of his guy friends didn’t have girlfriends. I found it a little hard meeting people and making friends at first.”
Having moved here from Upper Darby, Pa., and about 32 at the time, George said she was often socially isolated.
“I wasn’t lonely,” she says of that time. “But I was bored and didn’t have my own crew of activity buddies to do things with.”
On the advice of her sister, George, a lover of art galleries and museums back in Philadelphia, visited the website www.MeetUp.com in search of others in Hudson County with similar interests. She said she was immediately plugged into a network of art lovers who were soon telling her about interesting gallery shows and exhibits in New York and northern New Jersey. More important, she soon found herself with invitations to have coffee, dinner, and brunch with others who shared her interests.
‘What they say is true. Once you get out of school, you really don’t meet as many people as you did in college.’ – Emma Smartt
15.17 million members and counting
MeetUp.com describes itself as a network of local groups that allows people to find like-minded folks where they live who share their interests. But unlike online social media networks, meet-up members—as the name implies—actually meet in person, and simply use the Internet and social media to facilitate their group activities.
According to the company, www.MeetUp.com has 15.17 million individual members who have joined 139,740 groups in 196 countries. To get involved and start meeting new friends, people need only to visit the MeetUp.com website and type in their location or zip code to see a list of groups that exist in the area.
Don’t see a group for, say, lovers of hairless cats? Simply form one and start meeting others who share this, um, interesting passion.
The site has become a resource for thousands of people who want to hike, bike, dine, exercise, or just gossip with others in their area who want to do the same activities. In the New York metro area alone, there are meet-up groups dedicated to salsa dancing, Ducati motorcycle owners, acoustic guitarists, wine lovers, techies (there are a bunch of those), professional Latinos, “upscale Indians,” Jews who love the outdoors, Catholics looking for “fellowship,” atheists, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender twentysomethings. The list goes on.
There’s a group called “Jersey City Food-Loving Lesbians” that has 201 members. The group description says, “Do you live in Jersey City and find yourself wondering, where are all the lesbians? Hoboken, I'm talking about you too! I thought there would be no better way to get us together than with food.”
There’s a group for lovers of improvisation. A meet-up group dedicated to “hedonism” claims to have 1,846 hedonists as members. And lest anyone think these groups are all based in New York City, au contraire. There’s the popular Hoboken Social Sandbox, the Jersey City Moms Meetup, and the Paulus Hook Mom’s Group, also in Jersey City.
(Sadly, there was no group for single Jersey City-based African Americans in print media who love art, wine, pasta, and hand sanitizer. But give us time…)
‘Don’t want to ride by myself’
“I started coming after my son left for college,” said Bayonne resident Cheryl Kasdan, who joined a meet-up group of cyclists a couple of years ago. “My husband and I bike together sometimes. But he’s starting to have problems with his knees. So, he prefers to walk for his exercise now. I still want to bike. And I can bike more than he can right now. Now that I have more time to do it, since my son is in school, I want to ride as much as I can. This kind of gives me a way to do that when I don’t want to ride by myself.”
Another cycling enthusiast, Joey Cintrone, said he joined the group after his doctor told him he needed to lose a little weight. Cintrone, a resident of Hoboken, said his two closest friends play racquetball, “which I hate.” Other friends work out in gyms, which, he said, “I also hate.”
With his enthusiasm for physical activity apparently limited to the bike, Cintrone said he joined the cycling group because, “Without the social part of it, I know I wouldn’t do it as much as I need to.”
He estimates he has lost more than 35 pounds within the last year.
Emma Smartt, who divides her time between her place in Brooklyn and her boyfriend’s apartment in West New York, said she has often used www.MeetUp.com as a resource.
“I’ve met a lot of people that way,” said Smartt, including Anna George. The two have since become good friends.
“You know, what they say is really true,” said Smartt. “Once you get out of school, you really don’t meet as many people as you did in college or grad school. I don’t feel like I have much in common with people I work with. They’re older. They have kids in high school and they live in the suburbs. They seem to talk about their investments and their cholesterol a lot. Finding people through these meet-up groups is cool because it helps weed out people you know you probably can’t talk to.”
“Your coworkers are probably saying the same thing about you,” George said to Smartt. “Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a meet-up group for suburbanites with high school-age kids who want to talk about their cholesterol? I’ll bet one exists.”
If such a group exists, the Reporter couldn’t find it. But just give them time.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.