I love Meetup.com, an online network that exists to help people connect in real-life groups on a local level. I belong to Meetups for San Diego homeschooling, families with deaf and hard-of-hearing kids, and a women’s book club. Email notifications of park days and outings land in my inbox every week. A quick glance at the San Diego Meetup page reveals upcoming gatherings of a hiking group, a leatherworking group, a photography club, and a group of people meeting today to remember 9/11.
Yesterday, a touching letter from Meetup’s co-founder and CEO, Scott Heiferman, went out to all members. I learned to my surprise that Meetup.com was born out of 9/11.
I don’t write to our whole community often, but this week is special because it’s the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and many people don’t know that Meetup is a 9/11 baby.
Let me tell you the Meetup story. I was living a couple miles from the Twin Towers, and I was the kind of person who thought local community doesn’t matter much if we’ve got the internet and tv. The only time I thought about my neighbors was when I hoped they wouldn’t bother me.
When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors in the days after 9/11 than ever before. People said hello to neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they’d normally ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each other, and meeting up with each other. You know, being neighborly.
A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring people together in a lasting way. So the idea for Meetup was born: Could we use the internet to get off the internet–and grow local communities?