Connecting in Real Life

Real-life Meetups Make the World a Better Place

Graphic Designer

When I first heard about " Meetup ," I had no idea why or how it started, but it sounded like a neat idea. Then a few days before the tenth anniversary of 9/11, an email arrived from Meetup co-founder and CEO, Scott Heiferman. I was so impressed, I asked if I could share it — but in order for it to not get lost in a sea of 9/11 posts and reflections, I wanted to let some time elapse.

His message reminded me of two things: the tragedy of 9/11 changed life forever in the United States, but some goodness resulted; and the importance of real-life, or as my friend, Jake, likes to say — "tangible," connections need nurturing in order for each of us to thrive.

Scott's message:

Scott Heiferman
Scott Heiferman, CEO
and co-founder, Meetup

Fellow Meetuppers,

I don't write to our whole community often, but this week is special because it's the tenth 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 have 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? We didn't know if it would work. Most people thought it was a crazy idea — especially because terrorism is designed to make people distrust one another.

A small team came together, and we launched Meetup nine months after 9/11.

Today, almost 10 years and 10 million Meetuppers later, it's working. Every day, thousands of Meetups happen. Moms Meetups, Small Business Meetups, Fitness Meetups... a wild variety of 100,000 Meetup Groups with not much in common — except one thing:

Every Meetup starts with people simply saying hello to neighbors. And what often happens next is still amazing to me. They grow businesses and bands together, they teach and motivate each other, they babysit each other's kids and find other ways to work together.

They have fun and find solace together. They make friends and form powerful community.

It's powerful stuff.

It's a wonderful revolution in local community, and it's thanks to everyone who shows up.

Meetups aren't about 9/11, but they may not be happening if it weren't for 9/11.

9/11 didn't make us too scared to go outside or talk to strangers. 9/11 didn't rip us apart. No, we're building new community together!

The towers fell, but we rise up. And we're just getting started with these Meetups.

Scott Heiferman (on behalf of 80 people at Meetup HQ)
New York City
September 2011

I spend more and more of each day on my computer and mobile devices. On a recent weekend away from the Internet (AT&T provided no service to the area) I traded off driving in order to use my iPhone until the moment I went off the grid.

Scott's email is a reminder to all of us of the importance of our connections to others. This past month I made an effort to spend some quality time with friends, and really be present. Getting together face-to-face takes a lot more time and energy than firing off an email, making a phone call or posting a tweet, but for the added effort, the reward is huge.

I'm glad Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels exist because it means no one ever has to "feel" alone. But 10 years after 9/11, maybe it's time to venture out into the real world, take a chance and engage.

Meetup seems like a really cool place to start.

Real face time with friends the past month:

Doug Plummer
Dave Morris
Dave Morris
Sean Gardner
Sean Gardner
George Zaharoff, Piccolo Zaharoff, Cindy Chin
George Zaharoff, Piccolo Zaharoff, Cindy Chin
Linda Criddle
Linda Criddle
Kathy Gill
Kathy Gill (l.)
Chris Pirillo (l.) Chris Widener (r.)
Chris Pirillo (l.) Chris Widener (r.)
Glen, Paula, and Vic
Glen, Paula, and Vic
Chris Burget and Lori McNee
Chris Burget and Lori McNee



    I would like a graphic work of this booklet

  2. That email really struck me and inspired me to repost it on my blog as well! Was glad to re-read this. Been having a lot of reflection on the value of true community, lately. Or maybe that's an ongoing theme in my life.

  3. Tushar, thanks for the comment. Did you see the post on GPlus? I couldn't connect with the link.


  4. I love this...and am terrified at the same time.... =) Thank you for the shoutout, my friend!

  5. I agree, we have become a digital society of 1's and 0's, avatars and blogs... When did we lose our social connectivity? It seems so long ago when people got together regularly to interact, socialize, and converse.

    Today, we text, Tweet, Poke, BBM, Google Talk, and a myriad of other forms of "cyberacting" in lieu of interacting. A "LOL", "LMAO", or even "ROFLMAO" can never replace the sound of two or more people laughing and enjoying each others company.

  6. Dear Jake,

    Your words resonated when we talked the other evening. Thanks for "venturing out" and investing time in our friendship.



  7. Dear Dave,

    Thanks for reading. I loved your insights, and think your comment about "cyberacting instead of interacting" is the first time I've encountered the term! Very cool!

    It was so cool to get together last weekend, especially since we've been trying since you moved back to the area in late spring.

    You're so right how sharing laughter, making eye contact—just being in one another's presence—can't be replaced.



  8. Anonymous6:51 PM

    Thank you for sharing this post Terri. I hope to meet you and others like this one day. In the meantime I'm very happy to have connected with you on Twitter, Facebook, and Empire Avenue. Thank you for your friendship.

    - Jason

  9. Dear Jason,

    Thank you for reading and commenting. I was actually thinking about you and your family while I held off posting this piece. I know September 11 was an emotional journey for all of you.

    It has been wonderful getting acquainted with you, and I think there is a good possibility we'll meet one day. Until then, I'm looking forward to growing our friendship.

    Many thanks and sending ((HUGS))


  10. Wow Terri,

    This is a powerful post! Thanks for the backstory...

    Being an artist is a solitary profession, so I have been a natural for social media...I love taking trusted online friendships offline. It was wonderful meeting you in Seattle Terri and I look forward to seeing you again someday! Meanwhile, we can easily stay in touch! ;)

    Thanks for sharing your insights here!


  11. Dear Lori,

    I really appreciate your comment and identify with your comment about being in a solitary profession. Though I work with teams of people, at the end of the day I'm sitting here in front of my computer working by myself.

    Having hang time with you and Chris was really great. I feel like we had a chance to get to know each other and now when we see each other, there is something more -- something special.

    Here's hoping it's only the beginning of a long friendship. And thanks again for commenting. I really appreciate it.

    Cheers & ((HUGS))


  12. Terri,
    I really enjoyed this post! I feel I have found a kindred spirit in you and already value your friendship, even with you states away! I have been very blessed with being able to take many friendships off of the net and into person to person friendships. Ones that I value to this day! There definately needs to be a balance, but at the same time love that the technology exists today to stay connected with my friends and family near and far! Without facebook I would not have reconnected with many friends I have known since middle school. And with facebook and Twitter I stay connected daily with my brother! So, balance is indeed key! And I hope we can connect in person one day too! We have family that live near you, so I can see it happening!

  13. i just love your design so clean and clear. thanks for sharing.

  14. I, too, spend a lot of time with my various gadgets, and this weekend has been about that face-to-face quality interaction that I often take for granted. Love your posts and happy to discover your work :-)

  15. Dear Kris,

    I too feel a real connection with you! It's almost like we already knew each other some how...

    But the idea that we might be able to get together is something I'd really look forward to!

    I agree—the various connection options open up a myriad assortment of friendship levels. Most of the social networking avenues allows us as little or as much engagement as we permit.

    Focusing more time on "tangible" vs. virtual friends is something I want work on in the coming months!

    Krissy, thanks for all of your great support and for reading and commenting here!



  16. [NOTE] to Keridwyn—I'm not sure why your comment didn't post originally, but I found it and see it now. I'm pasting in the response I posted on your blog:


    Thanks for the email comment. It took a bit of sleuthing to find you and find this post. For some reason, your comment wasn't posted on my blog, but I'm very grateful you took the time to say something. So often we put things "out there" and don't know if they land anywhere.

    Cheers and thanks again, Terri


    Hello, Chapters of My Life,

    Thank you for reading and commenting, and I 'm happy we now mutually follow one another on Twitter.

    I'm looking forward to getting to know you, and even learn your name!

    Warm regards, Terri


    Hello, Amberr,

    It sounds as though we are afflicted with similar addictions to our gadgets :-) And reading about your weekend of seeing/sharing time with friends, makes me feel as though we've made similar observations about our lives and the people in them.

    Thank you very much for taking the time to read, and thanks for your comment!

    Cheers, Terri

  17. Thoughtfully written. I am constantly amazed at your mastery of new media. Reading your words is like talking with you in the same room. Not everyone has that talent. You make it seem easy.

  18. Dear David,

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting. (Did you also happen to see George's icon under "Members" so you can view his blog?)

    You of all people have born the brunt of all of my extracurricular social media endeavors, but you've been the most supportive person in my entire world, and I love you for that.

    Love, me

  19. Real life meet-ups prove that virtual relationships count. Internet connections are valid. Thanks for showing me photos of some of the people I only know virtually, Terri.

  20. Dear Billie,

    Thank you very much both for taking the time to read as well as comment.

    More and more it seems virtual crosses over to real, and at some point in the not-distant future, people will cease to think of them as being different. There are people we meet IRL who we don't know well, and people on social media we've not met IRL to whom we feel very close connections.

    Skype and GooglePlus are bridging the gap, but as as my friend, Dave Morris pointed out,

    "Today, we text, Tweet, Poke, BBM, Google Talk, and a myriad of other forms of "cyberacting" in lieu of interacting. A "LOL", "LMAO", or even "ROFLMAO" can never replace the sound of two or more people laughing and enjoying each others company."

    Couldn't have said it better myself!

    Cheers and thank you again,


  21. Good one Terri, and yes I remember getting the same email which captured my attention and got me to check out the site. In fact I will go back on now to see what other meet ups are in the area. As far as face to face time with friends and family, yes I do feel this is extremely important even though it seems to be getting harder and harder. I've been making a conscious effort to reconnect with friends and family and find time to go and visit and spend time while I can. I don't want to be one of those people at a funeral home saying to myself, "if only I went to see him or her sooner." Thanks again for sharing, and I hope all is going well:-)


  22. Dear Eric,

    Wow, your comment, "if only I went to see him or her sooner," resonated with me. Yesterday after dropping a client back at work following lunch, I thought of a friend who lived nearby who was recovering from having his kidneys removed, and whom I hadn't seen for a while. Though my day was busy, I decided to call to see if he could have a cup of coffee, and when he said yes, we met at Starbucks, and I felt so glad we did.

    We don't know how long we'll be on this earth and I don't think most of us, when we are about to die, will wish we'd spent more time working.

    The same thing goes for friendships and connections. It seems unlikely most of us, at the end of our lives, would wish we'd spent more time on the computer.

    So yes, spending time with people is a worthwhile endeavor, and whether it's done through Meetup, or tweetups or just having lunch with a friend, I think we should go for it.

    Thanks, Eric, for taking the time to comment.

    Somehow I suspect you are someone I'd really enjoy knowing in real life.

    Cheers, Terri

  23. Yes, and Amen to that! You said what I really wanted to say about what truly matters in life without all the distractions. My wife and I live a much simpler life than most because of this. While we do spend time on the computers and such, my focus has been more on my personal relationship spiritually with God first, then family and friends second. Work is number five on my values list, but for a while it was number one. No longer will I make it number one either, for as you said I will not be on my deathbed worried about work.

    Certainly, I really do like reading your posts. I have to admit I have not been as active when it comes to reading other blogs mainly because I felt like it wasn't really genuine. I now have your blog bookmarked in my top blog to read spot since yours is the only one that I truly feel good about reading and being able to relate to.

    Thanks so much for your postings, and for your comments on my blog. Stay Blessed, and will keep in touch:-)


  24. Dear Eric,

    Thank you again, and I've just subscribed to your blog, so hopefully it means we will be in touch!

    You sounds like a really good person, and I'm always interested in having people like you cross my path.

    Wishing you all the best, and looking forward to further connecting,


  25. Thanks for subscribing, and definitely, I feel the same way, especially since you have similar movie interests as me like Zoolander:-) Talk soon.

  26. Dear Terri,

    When I received this email from's founder, I was pleasantly surprised to learn how it all started.

    I've used back in my hometown on the east coast. I have yet to participate in any groups here in the Pacific NW. :(

    Even though I spend an enormous block of my time online, I so enjoy hanging out with friends offline.

    It was nice to be reminded (via the email) that we all are "built" for real-life, face-to-face relationships. I hope that more and more people realize this as time goes on.


    Donna (e)EOJ

  27. Thanks for posting this as I've never understood "meetups". Maybe it's living in a more rural area - I think people don't have the distrust that exists in larger cities. People pass each other on the street and smile or say hello to strangers. There is simply more connection. As I read this I realized that while the person-to-person contact still exists in smaller communities - it's still something we need to be aware of and protect. No, it's not a meetup but I do chat with my postman or the sales person in many of the stores or the person in produce or checker in the grocery store. I know whose struggling with weight loss or diabetes, who has a new grandchild, etc. And when I run into them some place outside of the work place, we know each other and learn more.
    I guess that's why I live here. Not a meetup in the strictest sense or maybe it's just one giant meetup :)

  28. Dear Donna,

    First let me say thanks for your comment.

    The Meetup letter arrived amidst a bombardment of other messages, but somehow broke through the noise. Reading the story of how and why they began inspired me.

    As you point out, many people spend time online, but nothing can replace a warm hug and shared laughter, face-to-face.

    Hoping to cross paths with you some day as we are in the same city (I think). As a jazz lover, we might have that in common.

    Many thanks again,



    Dear Karen,

    Sounds like you have a wonderful community surrounding you! We should all be so fortunate :-)

    Seattle isn't the biggest of cities, but I've often heard it said that people are friendly but it's impossible to make friends here.

    The fact that everyone where you live is woven into the fabric that makes your community, is pretty cool!

    Wishing you well and thank you again for the comment!

    Cheers, Terri

  29. Anonymous11:21 AM

    Hi, Terri.

    I never knew how Meetups started but always thought it was a cool idea. I think the greatest gift of the internet is that it has connected the world, allowing people who might never have met to become friends. That the internet is now being used to bring people together in person just shows how powerful it is.

    My first Meetup will be in June ... and I can't wait to give a hug to someone I've only known through the internet for the past 4 years. :)

    1. Dear Jaq,

      I didn't know how Meetups started, but last year when I read this letter I knew I wanted to share it with others.

      Social media can be fun and even rewarding when meaningful relationships form. Last week I stopped by a huge meetup for Foursquare Day. To be honest—there were too many people there and I didn't stay long, but I loved that people were GAME to meet face to face.

      I'm excited for your meetup in June, and hope you'll let me know how it goes! I suspect it will surpass your expectations!

      Many thanks for taking the time to read and comment.


  30. I didn't know this, T-Rex! What a great (and truly touching post) I hope one day soon to be in one of those photos with you, a dream real life (sorry, tangible) meetup! (((HUGS)))

    1. Dearest MEG,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I know how busy you are, and for you to take time to do this is very special to me.

      It's both amazing and sad that a tragedy such as 9/11 catalyzed the entity we know as Meetup.

      But having now spent 4 years online, I think real-life connections are more important than ever.

      Recent events involving Twitter "friends" accentuate how easy it is to fake one's way into people's online lives. And sometimes it's difficult to separate "the wheat from the chaff."

      Perhaps the safest thing to do is "lurk" and not engage with anyone, but then it would become "Anti-social media!"

      Lots of love to you and kiddo and here's hoping we meet IRL soon!



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i'm a graphic designer who loves words. - terri nakamura