Even if it hasn’t fully reconstructed the tradition of community in America, 11 years later Meetup is at least a window into hidden corners of the city. It’s also a directory of the best public meeting spaces. The bustling Citicorp Atrium on Lexington and 53rd, which has free wifi, is a favorite. Every white table was occupied with couples, students or homeless men munching sandwiches, as I made my way toward a meetup in the corner on a recent Wednesday evening.
An older gentleman in a Coney Island sweatshirt, possibly in his 60s or 70s, was seated at a table with a plump blonde woman, Brenna, and her soft-spoken co-organizer, David. I introduced myself and scooted over a metal chair as David passed out a detailed worksheet. “NYC Hoarders-No-More Meetup Group,” it said. We were joined by a tattooed hoarder from the Bronx who sleeps in his living room because his bedroom is stuffed to the ceiling with junk, books, and defunct scuba gear. “I’m an atheist,” he said. “But I pray for a fire.”
A few more hoarders showed up as we worked our way through everyone’s updates. Brenna had thrown away about ten New Yorkers, some greeting cards and a notebook with amateur song lyrics that she had found on the sidewalk; Adrian, a former bank vice president, had made significant progress in the kitchen (“The freezer part is cool but the refrigerator part is out of control”).
Every week, the hoarders bring in some debris to discard. As they sorted, we talked about Meetup.
“I think there should be a values score on Meetup so you can put in your values and find meetups based on that,” said a grandfather-aged gentleman with wispy ear hair and rubber bands around his wrist.
“I love Meetup—I’m in a bunch of them,” said the Bronx hoarder. “I co-organize the New York City Depression Meetup. It has 900-some members.”
He joined the site for a scuba diving meetup and was on it for a year before he realized the site had other relevant offerings; now, he regularly checks the site whenever he develops a new interest. “I joined an evolution meetup and the book we read was Richard Dawkins, “The Greatest Show on Earth,” and I fell in love with it,” he said. “After that, I started going to atheism meetups.”
David, who is a member of 15 meetup groups, asked him to write down the name of the depression meetup.
Meetup tends to be addicting. “I am very active on Meetup, in that I join a lot of Meetup groups to see what people are doing,” one Start Living in 2012 attendee wrote in an email. “Meetup probably e-mails me an average of five new groups a day for me to look at, and of those I may sign on to receive updates from one or two a week. Off the top of my head, I’ve been to meetings of a Beekeeping meetup, a Content Strategy meetup, an Artists Accountability Group meetup, and an Online Dating Conference meetup.”
It’s interesting to see what will motivate people to meet up. The site first got traction when the founders started inventing holidays. Mr. Heiferman and Mr. Meeker scoured the Internet for groups and special interest blogs. Then they sent the groups an email about an upcoming made-up celebration—International Pug Lovers Meetup Day, for example—and explained how to join a local meetup or host one. Today, there are 39,427 members of 179 Pug Meetup groups in 149 cities around the world. The biggest demographic on Meetup is moms. Political groups are also big, as are singles groups and New Age-y interests like “energy healing.” Group activities like language practice, sports and networking events are popular. There are even a few pickup artist-themed meetups, like the NYC Wingmen.
On a recent Friday night, I ventured out to an electronic rock show on the Lower East Side for a meetup of NYC Bands for Bands, a sort of networking group of musicians who go to each others’ shows. One musical couple started the group five months ago in order to meet promoters’ demands that their band bring a crowd. But filling up the club is part of it, Micha, a musician in a plaid cap, told me; he comes for the camaraderie. “I can’t imagine myself not going to this for as long as it exists,” he said.
With the glaring exception of the New York Tech Meetup, which has more than 20,000 members, meetups seem to have a natural size limit. Once a group gets large enough, it starts to replicate or “cell divide” according to set patterns, Mr. Heiferman said. “It’s an almost Darwininan ecosystem,” he said. Lance, a stay-at-home father, started the NYC Dads Meetup in 2008 as a group for at-home dads, but it’s expanded. “We’ve got dads of all stripes,” the group’s co-organizer Lance, told me at a NYC Dads drink-up at Heartland Brewery in Union Square. “Guys who lost their jobs, guys who chose the role. We’ve got gay dads joining now.”
The group now has a popular blog, a long list of sponsors, and business cards. But Mr. Heiferman, who is a member of NYC Dads, decided neither it nor any of the other 50 parenting meetups on the Upper West Side was quite right, so he recently started a splinter meetup for parents of children on the aged 9 to 16 months. It now has 29 members.
I felt I had just scratched the surface, even after a week of random meetups. I didn’t get all my first choices. Organizers of the NYC Vinyl Meetup did not email me back quickly enough; I picked the hoarders group over the A Course In Miracles Meetup Group, devotees of the cult classic spiritual text. I got a few rejections. “The 3 p.m. sword balancing is for folks that have 2-3 years of belly dance experience,” wrote the organizer of the Manhattan Tribal ATS Tribal Belly Dance Meetup NYC, somewhat of a relief. I was also excluded from a private dinner held by the Psychedelic and Entheogenic Society, fans of Timothy Leary, although most of their meetups are open.
There was a spate of meetups on Saturday morning—running, walking, breakfast clubs—that I slept too late to check out, opting for Exciting NYC Mandarin Chinese Learners at 2 p.m. at the Chinatown Y. The class was $40. This is not unusual; independent teachers use Meetup to coordinate and advertise classes, and some business-oriented events also charge a fee. Meetup has made this easier by integrating PayPal. Every meetup group organizer pays $10 a month.
For the final outing in my week-long experiment, I caught a nighttime gathering of the New York Parkour Meetup. I was soon in pain from banging my body as I tried to hurdle over stacks of mats while our limber instructor heckled at us to do flips. Luckily, this session took place inside the colorful gymnasium in the Field House at Chelsea Piers, and not at the Sanctuary, the group’s concrete Upper West Side practice area.
I walked out into the icy night exhausted—partly because of the exertion, partly because I had just spent the last week hanging out with strangers. In that moment, I thought, if I never, ever saw another human, it would be too soon. At least until Tuesday. That was Euchre night.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified a New York punk band as Lunar; the band is Luna. Betabeat regrets the error.
Start Living in 2012 (157 Social Innovators)
This group is for you if you are sick and tired of working (or searching) for a job in a field you have no passion for that expects you to be a politically correct, PG-13 kiss ass for most of your waking life
Young Naturists / Nudists of America (349 Nudies)
Can you believe that there is no reall naturist group on meet-up? It is time for a change. This group is for people who are interested in nudism / naturism. You dont have to be a full blown nudist to start but you probably will over time :) Lets get together and set up cloting optional meet-up's. Please do not post any explisit pictures and nothing sexaul - I will delete it and give you the boot.
The NYC Dungeons & Dragons Meetup (1,430 DND Players)
Dungeons and Dragons is the most popular tabletop role-playing game of all time. The game is played with about 6 players. One person takes the role of storyteller, AKA the Dungeon Master, and narrates the story in a medieval fantasy world filled with magic, monsters, romance, intrigue, and adventure. The rest of the players take on the roles of individual fictional characters and explore that world, often becoming heroes in the story.
NYC Satanists, Luciferians, Dark Pagans, and LHP Occultists
The NYC Satanists Discussion Group, also known as New York City Satanists, Luciferians, Dark Pagans, and LHP Occultists, holds open discussion meetings and informal social gatherings in Manhattan (and occasionally in Queens)... Please note also: This group is not a dating service.
The New York City Ukulele Meetup Group (482 Ukulele Players/fans)
Let's meet, play, teach, learn and talk story! Let's hear some ideas on where, when, etc. and go to ukulele events!. Also, please post your ukulele experience and musical interests. Check out who's performing and where. No experience? Come to our jams anyway. Best way to learn is by playing (or trying to play) with others!
"Hedonism" (1,184 Hedonists)
"Meet and socialize with other local Hedonists from the Tri-state area. To organize and meet, All those who are devoted to the idea's that pleasure the mind and body. We will hold events and parties that will celebrate and encourage open mind sexual dimension in many forms. Attending and participate in alternative styles of eroticism. While promoting a safe and conscious environment for all"
Deep Thinkers Round Table (65 Thinkers)
You know who you are. You're the one who sees big things in 'little' things; the one thinking all the time. For many, thinking amounts to work. For a few, thinking is fun. For you though, thinking is food.
NYC Freegan Meetup (1,079 people)
Do you want to reduce your consumer impact on the earth, humans, and animals? Are you concerned about the wastefulness of our consumer society? Learn how to find useable goods in the refuse of our throw-away culture, to identify wild edibles, to repair and rebuild bikes, clothing and more.
East Village Euchre Club (67 Players)
This is group is dedicated to all of the Midwest transplants to New York who spent the better part of their collegiate years living and breathing the brilliant game of Euchre.
NYC Hoarders-No-More meetup group (81 Future Neatniks)
Do you keep things (empty boxes, old magazines, out of print sheet music, business cards, pens that don't work anymore, shopping bags) because you or someone else "just might need them someday" or you have an emotional attachment to them (someone special gave them to you, or you got them in a memorable place)?
NYCDSG: The NYC Depression Support Group Meet Up (937 Meetup Group Members)
A Meet Up of discussions, treatments, experiences and support with others who are dealing as well as coping with depression. A Meet Up Support Group atmosphere that can empower us from feeling trapped, in a rut, overwhelmed or tied down. We must be prepared for whatever life decides to throw at us.
New York City Beekeeping (1,342 Bee Lovers and Beekeepers)
Want to bring bees or other pollinators to your garden or rooftop, looking for honey from your neighborhood, or beekeeper seeking assistance?
(photo: Colm O'Molloy)
New York City Atheists Meetings (925 Atheists)
ATHEISTS GROUP WHOSE PRIMARY OBJECTIVE IS THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE.
NYC Wingmen (1,357 Wingmen)
NYC Wingmen.com is the biggest wing men meet/pua up in NY. We have monthly meetings, where you get a chance to meet wingmen, get advice on meeting and dating women and meet someone who can become your wingman. We host outings, where you can go out and meet women with wingman/pua by your side.
We have skill ranking, that allows you to choose wingmen close to your skill level, and Day time / Night time pua options, in case you prefer to meet women in day time, night time, or both. Best part, NYC Wingmen is totally free. (pua)
NYC wingmen is hosted by mpua and dating coaches from http://www.NewYorkDatingCoach.com .Get your up to date advice on meeting and dating women, and then apply knowledge the very same day with wingman by your side. PUA.
Psychedelic and Entheogenic Society of New York City (586 Entheogenic Explorers)
Our group is a safe place to discuss Entheogens and the expansion of consciousness. We discuss the work of such luminaries as Hofmann, McKenna, Pinchbeck, Abraham, Grey, Sheldrake, Leary, Grof, Lilly, the Shulgins and so much more. **Our group doesn't engage in or promote illegal activities during our Meetups. Don't join this group to get "hooked up" because you'll be removed if that's your sole intention. We are a mature, safe group.**
Exciting Mandarin Chinese Learners (147 Mandarin Chinese learners)
Welcome!! My goal is to help you learn and practice authentic and successful Mandarin Chinese with fun and ease while you are enjoying a great experience of Chinese culture with someone who care for your progress, who understand your challenges, and who are authentic and genuine with the best knowledge of Chinese culture, arts, film, music, history, business, economics and so on. With my infectious energy to inspire you, even if you are just a beginner, you will gain your skills rapidly with a happy smile on your face every week!
New York Parkour Meetup (716 Parkour Enthusiasts)
Meet other local Parkour Enthusiasts. Gather for discussion, to plan practice sessions, and to learn more about this form of 'urban gymnastics,' also known as Free-running, emphasizing speed, flow, and grace.
Seven days on Meetup.com.