I've used the Internet for all kinds of things -- from improving my health to making small loans to worthy entrepreneurs in developing nations. And there's certainly no way I could have won my fantasy football league championship without the Web.
One of my all-time favorite sites, though, is Meetup.com. If you're looking to make new friends and have more fun in Washington D.C. -- or about any other place in the country -- this is a fantastic way to do it. The beauty of Meetup.com is that it's a site aimed at doing what more sites should do: increasing human interaction and deepening our involvement in the non-cyber world. The concept is simple: go to the home page, plug in a geographical area or interest and, presto, it gives you links to a bazillion different clubs in your area that focus on a specif subject. In a big city like ours, there's likely a group for about everything you can imagine -- from afghan-making to zoology. You sign up for notices from any group you find interesting and then attend events organized by volunteers. If by some freak of nature there is no group in the District organized around your interest, you can start one.
What kinds of people attend Meetup.com events? Everybody.
Young, middle-aged and old. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian and people of every other race and origin. White collar. Blue collar. Rocket scientists. Writers. Weekend-warrior athletes. People trying to get in shape.
What do people do? Everything. There are 2,526 groups in the D.C. area as I write. Sit and drink beer or hike and watch birds. Learn a foreign language or how to salsa dance. Play scrabble, rescue dogs, and root for the Nationals. Grow your business. Save the Chesapeake Bay.
A few of my favorites will give you an additional sense of the range of possibilities. If you join 'em, tell them I sent you.
- DC Volunteers -- sign up to do good in a day. It's volunteer work for busy people who may not have time to commit to ongoing efforts but want to make a difference. If you were going to sign up for just one Meetup.com group, start with this one.
- VeloDCity -- a biking group that goes on frequent rides of different lengths. I'm a pretty fit biker but thanks to the selfless efforts of the organizer, Gregg, I've increased my skill level, learned new routes without having to worry about getting lost (we leave no one behind), and met people interested in exploring other great rides.
- DC PR Flacks -- a group of public relations professionals. I'm a communications director for a nonprofit by day so I try not to keep thinking about work when I leave the office, which explains why I haven't attended an event yet, but networking with people in my profession is always helpful.
- Washington DC Blogger Meetup -- I love writing and very much enjoy learning new things about the blogosphere. I attended its last event, met people with far more experience blogging than myself and walked away with great tips and new friends. The insight gleaned there has prompted me to start a blog about watching TV. Actually, I'm missing Lopez Tonight on TBS right now. Time to head to the living room -- and maybe start a George Lopez show MeetUp group.