Sunday, September 17, 2006 · posted at 3:13 AM
Hello. My Name Is...

How are you doing today? Maybe we can talk for a little while and then we can go get some 49 cent cheeseburgers at McDonald's. Baby!
      - Philip Wang, "Yellow Fever"

When I was looking for an apartment, I frequently ran across ads that requested, "Send your mySpace or FaceBook link." I prided myself on the fact that I didn't belong to either, that I had risen above the lure of online social networking (though I do have a defunct Friendster account collecting dust).

Then I discovered I was googling language partners in the city and one of the hits was, which advertised a language exchange group. No longer would I need to deal with shady craigslist ads that offered "free" tutoring in exchange for special massages - instead I could deal with a whole online community of possibly shady people!

Rather than being people- or network-based like MySpace, Meetup is subject-based. You can enter in a topic (e.g. knitting, vegan, human rights, tattoos) and find an event (at a public place) where like-minded people will meet to further their interests in knitting, veganism, human rights and body mutilation. I found myself looking at every group in the NYC area and joining so many that I felt embarassed and hid the number of groups I belong to.

While there is a "meat market" vibe to some of the groups (be suspicious of groups with the word "professionals" in the title - it's usually code for a singles group), there's always a focus to the group. You can swap books, see free screenings of movies, try new restaurants... Best of all, if you're a non-commital nerd like me, you can see what's going on without having to actually agree to anything.

If it sounds like I'm trying to justice online social networking, I am... I'm just throwing my vote to Meetup instead of MySpace. Can you find people to play Settlers of Catan on MySpace? I thought not...

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