When Steve Smith found himself lacking a social life in a new city, he turned to Meetup.
Now he says he has hundreds of friends in the Greater Victoria area and attends a Meetup event every day, which can be as simple as a group walk around the Royal Roads University campus to longer trips around Vancouver Island.
“It’s been a real wonderful thing for me and lots of other people … It was a real simple way to start up a social life,” Smith said.
Meetup is an online social network that helps bring groups of people together with shared interests and hobbies. The group started in 2002 after its founder, Scott Heiferman, was inspired by how New Yorkers rallied in the wake of 9/11. Millions of users from around the globe are regular users of the website.
Smith discovered the site shortly after his move from Duncan to Langford. He joined the Westshore Meetup group and later became the group’s primary organizer. The group now boasts more than 1,300 members and has roughly 70 upcoming events.
“I’ve posted a lot of stuff and people want choice in what they want to do,” Smith said when asked about the group’s success. “Most people don’t want to spend too much time figuring out what they want to do and they can just look on Meetup and see what’s on there.”
It’s become an especially important tool for individuals with social anxiety, who have a difficult time meeting new friends through more traditional means.
“I’ve kind of overcome it now that I’m older, but for most of my life I suffered from real serious social anxiety. I could hardly go out in public without getting really anxious. That’s one of the things that Meetup has done for me, it’s made me feel relaxed around people,” Smith said.
The Westshore Meetup group has members in various age categories, but Smith said the primary demographic are individuals in the 40 to 60 range.
Groups that tend to have younger members are out there as well, with hundreds of active groups in the Victoria area, from French conversation groups to running clubs to video gamers.
Looking forward, Smith is excited for the “Decades of Rock” dance at the Langford Legion on Nov. 19, an event that routinely draws a lot of the Meetup crowd, with 14 having already said they were planning to attend through the group’s page.
For a list of the group’s activities, click here.