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04

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BNE AUTUMN 2014

group

THERAPY

I

t’s ironic that people are using technology to

get off the internet and do what was the norm

for previous generations – engage with the

real world. Thousands in Brisbane and millions

internationally are logging on to social media

not just to check out friends’ holiday photos but

to find new mates and hobbies.

Associate Professor Pradip Thomas, from

the University of Queensland, is a leading

academic on the subject of communication

and social change and he believes the internet

is revolutionising the way we socialise. “Social

media helps us connect to communities out there

that we didn’t know existed.”

Thomas believes that the internet is creating

contemporary communities. “It is fulfilling and

meaningful precisely because it does not take

strangers too long to become friends,” he says.

Whether you call it old-school or

revolutionary the internet is helping people

actually get offline and meet others face-to-face

more than ever. One website helping to fuel that

interaction is Meetup.com which now boasts

more than 20 million members worldwide and

numbers pushing towards a million in Australia

since it began in 2002.

Founder of the site Scott Heiferman admits he

never thought about community beyond his TV

or internet and barely spoke to neighbours before

9/11 but the fall of the Twin Towers changed all

that for the New Yorker. “[After 9/11] people

said hello to neighbours who they’d normally

ignore. People were looking at each other,

helping each other and meeting up with each

other … being neighbourly,” he says. “People

started thinking that maybe this could bring

people together in a lasting way.” So the idea for

Meetup was born.

Heiferman and a small team launched

Meetup nine months later and the Australian site

launched at the same time.

Today there are about 9000 meetups

happening nationwide each week and in

Brisbane alone there are close to 1000 Meetup

groups connecting people to share common

interests and just plain have fun. The topics that

bring them together are as diverse as conspiracy

theories over home-made dinners (yes, that is a

group) to outdoor hiking.

Brisbane Social Singles is the most popular

group in Brisbane with almost 5000 members

and events happening almost every day of the

week. Organisers make it clear it is not intended

to be a dating site and you don’t actually have

to be single to join. The point is to get out and

socialise and to be involved in activities, ranging

from trivia nights to archery, ice skating, cycling,

comedy nights, coffee meetups or karaoke.

However, not even its range of activities

appeals to everyone. Kayla Trunks, 24, a project

officer from Auchenflower, started Too Nerdy

for Cool People, Too Cool for Nerdy People

last month. “I was sick of sitting at home

doing nothing all the time but wanted to meet

people who had similar interests to me,” says

Trunks, who loves her Playstation as much as

she likes fashion, knows the difference between

Marvel and DC and enjoys cosplay as much as

cosmetics.

“I’m not a full-on nerd, so none of the nerd

groups seemed right, but I wouldn’t say I’m cool

either so a lot of the singles drinks groups weren’t

really my scene. So I created a group that was

in-between.”

Trunks spends about an hour a day organising

social events and her first event attracted a diverse

group from film-makers and mathematicians to

real estate agents. “I had fun and met some very

nice people who are interested in the same stuff

as I am.”

Tristan Matthias, 20, started his group

Conspiracy Theories and Homemade Dinners

to stimulate interesting conversation as an

antidote to people more interested in Facebook

notifications than live interaction. Matthias,

a web designer and developer by day also

Meeting up with strangers for fun and

friendship is alive and well and more

popular than ever thanks to social media,

as

Elisabeth Galvin

discovers

12

March/April 2015

Kitsch Stitch