Does Meetup.com Work For Making Friends?
These days if someone asks for advice on how to meet people or make friends one of the answers they're likely to get is "Try Meetup.com". In case you don't know, Meetup.com has listings for all kinds of local social groups. Anyone can create a group and announce its upcoming get togethers. Other users can become members of the group and attend events. Some groups are based around activities like going on hikes or playing board games. Others are more purely social, and a meet up might be gathering at a local restaurant to chat. It's free to use if you're browsing for events. You only have to pay if you host a group yourself.
Some people have never tried meeting friends through a website or app before. It feels a tad odd and foreign, so they're unsure about whether it works for that reason. Other people are skeptical because they've already been to a Meetup.com event or two and it didn't work out. They're wondering if they should give it another chance.
In this article I'll share my thoughts on how useful Meetup.com is for building a social circle. For the record, I've been to plenty of meet ups and have made some good friends through them. I'll discuss its pros and cons, and share some thoughts on how to approach the site to get the most out of it. I'll talk in terms of showing up to other people's events. Creating a group and hosting your own gatherings is also an option, but that's its own topic.
Meetup.com is simply a way to meet people
So does the site work for making friends? Yeah, in the sense that it's just one option of many to put yourself around new people. You can potentially make friends, or not, through any method of meeting others, whether it's a Meetup.com pub night, a volunteer position, or a figure drawing class. And once you've met those people you might click with them, or you might not, depending on all kinds of factors. That all seems obvious, but I still wanted to mention it.
Benefits of Meetup.com
Okay, so the site can help you make friends in the basic sense that it lets you meet people. It also has a few unique benefits that can facilitate friendships:
- It lets you easily attend lots of social events - Don't have any plans on Monday and Thursday evening? Just see what's on Meetup.com, pick some events that seem interesting, then go to them. A few meet ups have a wait list or require some pre-planning, but for most you just have to show up. Many other methods of meeting people require more preparation and commitment, like needing to register and pay for an art class months before it starts, or having to do a bunch of paperwork and background checks to volunteer somewhere.
- Most of the people at Meetup.com get togethers are open to making friends - That is what the site is for. It's not like starting a new job, where a good chunk of your co-workers may be too busy with their families or existing friends, and not interested hanging out. It's not like trying to chat to strangers at a concert, where many people are only there to see the show.
- It lets you search for groups based on your interests - That increases the chance you'll end up at events where you'll have a good time and meet people you're compatible with. There are groups for all kinds of things, such as camping, trying new restaurants, badminton, discussing philosophy, dancing, tarot cards, and tabletop games. Of course, not every hobby will be represented in every town, but overall there's a good mix.
- It has member profiles to help you connect with people - If you go to a meet up and get along with someone, but didn't get their contact information that day, you can send them a message through the site. Not every member checks their messages, but it can be a way to follow up with someone when you otherwise wouldn't be able to.
The site can also help you socially in other ways:
- It's a way to try new things - There might be a meet up to take a free drumming circle class, or go bird watching, or see a stand-up comedy show. If you've never done any of those activities before, this can be as good a reason as any to try them. You might meet some people while you're at it. If not, at least you had an interesting experience, and maybe something to talk about down the road.
- It's a good place to practice your social skills - Meetup.com lets you meet and chat to a variety of people. It's a convenient, accessible place to practice skills like making making small talk, listening, or joining group conversations.
- Meetup.com is a good way to get little doses of human contact if your social life is still a work in progress - You've just moved to town and are feeling lonely. Ideally you'd like to have a solid group of friends. However, sometimes even if you work at it that won't fall into place right away. In the meantime going to the odd meet up can tide you over and keep you from feeling totally isolated. You may go to a pub night or hike and make some friendly chit chat with some other attendees. Even if those conversations don't lead to any ongoing friendships, they can keep you from feeling like you never get to spend time with anyone.
Some drawbacks or complaints about using Meetup.com
Meetup.com isn't perfect. Some people have more success with it than others. Below I'll address some common complaints about events organized through it, and give some tips where I can for getting around those issues.
Meetup.com isn't busy enough in some areas
The site depends on its users to create groups and host events. It's more established in some places than others. It has a presence in many cities and bigger towns. There may not be something that's exactly to your taste every week, but there's enough going on.
Smaller towns are more hit-or-miss, like for many social options. However, if you have a car and are willing to travel, there may be enough going on in your larger multi-town region.
Meetup.com is better for people in their mid-twenties and up
A common complaint about the site is, "I went to a few meet ups and everyone was way older than me". Meetup.com is for adults of any age, so some groups will skew toward members who are middle aged. Overall, most of its users are in their mid-twenties and older. Which makes sense since that's when people can no longer meet friends through high school or college.
If you're younger it's still possible to make friends through the site, but the numbers aren't in your favor. One thing you can do is look for groups that are specifically for a younger age range. It can also help to be open-minded about the ages of the people you could befriend, or at least socialize with. Sure, most of us prefer to have a group of closer friends who are around our age. But if you just want to go on the occasional hike, do the people you do it with have to be born within three years of you?
You won't meet people you click with at every event
As I wrote earlier, Meetup.com is just a way to put yourself in the presence of new people. You won't hit it off with all of them. Sometimes you'll go to a few events in a row and not feel a connection with anyone. This is more likely to happen at very general meet ups, where the only thing everyone might have in common is that they live in the same area, or that they enjoy the same broadly-appealing activity like walking or eating food.
It can help to go to more targeted, interest-specific get togethers. It's also useful to accept you're playing a numbers game, and that just because you didn't meet anyone at the last meet up or two, it doesn't mean the next time couldn't be different. Some people get lucky and make friends from the first meet up they attend. Some people also marry the first person they ever messaged on a dating app. Most of us have to put in more time than that.
Also, be honest with yourself and ask if you've got some mental baggage that's causing you to feel like you don't click with anyone. I think most of the time it's just bad luck if someone goes to a bunch of dud meet ups in row. However, a few people may have something else going on, like they feel insecure and embarrassed about using the site and are projecting that everyone they meet through it has something wrong with them.
Some events have low attendance, even though more people said they'd be coming
Anyone who's been to more than a handful of meet ups knows to take the Attendees list with a grain of salt. It's easy to click 'Yes' to say you'll be going. It's just as simple to decide not to come at the last second and not bother to change your RSVP. If someone has just joined a group, and the other members are only anonymous internet profiles to them, they won't feel that bad about backing out.
Though the unreliability of the Attendees list can go the other way. Some events say only two or three people are coming, but that's because they have lots of regulars who don't feel the need to indicate that they're going every time.
Overall, it's good to go into meet ups without any expectations for how big the turn out will be. Just try to roll with whatever happens. An event with a low turnout isn't necessarily bad if you get along with the few people who do show up. An event that's larger than you were expecting may be unwieldy or out of your comfort zone, but gives you more opportunities to meet someone.
Different people may show up to the same group's meet ups each time, which can make it hard to get to know anyone over a longer period
It's easier to make friends when you're in a setting where everyone can gradually get to know each other. That can't happen if a Meetup.com group tends to attract attendees who show up once or twice then move on. Talking to new people and making a good impression right away also isn't everyone's strong area. Some of us are at our best only once we've gotten used to someone.
There are a few things you can do here:
- Know that not every group is like this. Some have members that turn up reliably.
- If you enjoy it otherwise, keep going to the group. After only a few meet ups the attendance may seem inconsistent, but over a longer period you may see the same faces again and again. They just show up every three or four weeks rather than every week. You can still gradually get to know them, but you'll have to accept it will to be a longer-term project.
- If you really hit it off with someone, consider asking for their contact information that day (or message them on the site after). That way you don't have to count on running into them again.
Some groups have a core of regulars who keep to themselves
This is the opposite problem to the one above. Some groups have an established clique that isn't that welcoming to outsiders. They may not intend to come across that way. It's just that they know each other and prefer to stick together.
Again, realize not all groups are like this. Also, know this can be a problem in any social setting, not just meet ups. Next, accept it may just not work out with this particular group (though maybe in a few months it will have fresh faces). However, you may be able to make it work for you. You could go to a few more events and let the regulars get used to you. You could also focus on getting to know other newcomers, and let the regulars do their own thing.
Some groups have a core of regulars who only want to socialize at meet ups
You may enjoy talking to some people you've seen at a few of a group's events. But when you ask if they'd like to hang out outside of a meet up they look at you funny. Know not everyone is like this. Also ask yourself if you could accept only seeing those people at meet ups if you like their company otherwise. It's a bit limiting, but not the worst thing ever.
"I went to a meet up and it was awkward. No one knew what to say to each other."Yep, sometimes this happens. It can be uncomfortable the first few times you go to a Meetup.com event. It's an unfamiliar scenario, and not everyone is good at chatting to strangers. If a lot of the attendees are new and feeling out of their element, the get together can have a stilted, nervous vibe to it.
Once more, this doesn't happen at every event. Also, with practice you can get to a point where you're comfortable at meet ups, and can even be the relaxed veteran that helps the newbies feel at ease.
"I heard Meetup.com is only for weirdos who can't make friends through other means"
Nope. Not true. Meet ups are attended by all types of people. Most are regular folk who either want to add some new blood to their social circle, have recently moved to the area, or want to take part in a particular activity. There's nothing odd or shameful about wanting to be sociable or make more friends.
Yes, some meet up attendees are what you could call awkward. But you may run into a shy person at a house party or volunteer position too. Naturally, I reject the idea that just because someone is a bit awkward that they're a bad person who taints a social event for everyone else. If you go to a meet up and you come across someone who's not your type of person, because they're "weird" by your standards, just socialize with someone else instead. And even if mostly everyone at an event is too "weird" for you, it doesn't automatically mean all meet ups are like that. If an attendee is "awkward" to the point where they make others feel creeped out or threatened, many group organizers will be willing to deal with it if you bring the matter to their attention.
"I went to a meet up and there were no hot chicks/guys there"
Some single people go to meet ups to hopefully find someone to date, and rate the events entirely through that lens. Of course, just because a get together isn't good as a meat market doesn't mean it won't be useful for someone who wants to make friends.
Women who use the site can be harassed by creepy or desperate guys
Unfortunately women can run into creeps everywhere, and Meetup.com is no exception. Upon joining the site and creating a profile, a woman may get some inappropriate or overeager messages from other members. Once she attends a meet up all her attention may be taken up by single guys who want to chat to her, when she'd prefer to get to know some other women.
The main way to get around this problem is to join women-only groups. On the site you can adjust your message and privacy settings so it's harder for randoms to contact you. Creating a profile with a non-descript profile photo can also keep the hoards at bay. If someone is really out of line you can also report them to the site or the group's organizer.
If you use Meetup.com, don't give up if it doesn't work for you right away
If you're curious about it, why not give Meetup.com a try? If you give it an honest shot and you find it's not for you, that's fine. At least now you know. But please go to more than a handful of events before deciding it doesn't work. Any single get together may not be to your taste, but they're not all like that. Overall, you don't need to every meet up you attend to go perfectly. If you go to seven and they're busts, then meet a great group of friends at the eighth, then I'd say it was all worth it.
People can evaluate Meetup.com's supposed effectiveness by a different standard, because they're solely using it to try to make friends
A final thought. It can be discouraging to attend a bunch of meet ups and not have them go anywhere. You may long for an easier way to make friends, like meeting people at your job or school classes.
The thing is more-traditional ways of meeting people aren't any more efficient if you think about it. Many people have made friends at work or school, but most didn't show up to their first class or shift and come away with a group of buddies. They may have been at a new job for a few months, chatting to their co-workers here and there, before they felt close enough to hang out with them after work. In university they may have had classes where all semester they just grabbed their seat, took some notes, then got up and left without speaking to anyone. If you look at work or school in terms of Hours Spent There vs. Friends Made they don't do well.
It's just that with school and work we're there for other reasons, so we're not super-concerned with how quick or effective those places are for forming a social circle. But if you go to a meet up primary to make friends, and it's so-so, then it can feel like a disappointing waste of time. Meetup.com can work, though it may take longer than you'd like. But even if it takes a while, you're not losing that many hours in the larger scheme of things..
So those are my thoughts on whether Meetup.com is good for making friends. This related article gives some more-practical tips for mingling at its events:
This one goes into more details about types of meet ups: