[This article is re-published here from the Examiner.com]
No one would argue that as a civilization we as humans have evolved. From pre-historic times when humans huddled together in small groups to survive the rigors of the natural elements they lived within, to the days of vast nation states that massed the will of their people into one awe inspiring force.
Social networks of all kinds have been at the core of the human experience.
In the world of today we all seem to have grown more insular. Many times we look out at the world from behind a computer screen and from within the walls of small cubicles. Email, chat, discussion forums, twitter friends and online dating all tend to keep us from make the most basic of all human connections - the face to face handshake.
As a person who is wrapped up in the Internet and all of the possibilities it affords and opportunity it offers I have seen and experienced the effects of being immersed in a world where friendships and connections are made from behind a keyboard. The people you chat with online are mostly all real, but the Internet social experience can never match the tried and true old fashioned world of face to face networking.
This is why groups have sprung up around the world in an effort to climb out from the cubicle lives we have all been leading and actually schedule times to meet one another face to face.
One of these organizations is called Meetup. The concept is simple at Meetup.com, they provide the tools needed to organize a meetup event and the home base website which allows local meetup organizers to offer a social networking group in thier area based on any interest or dicipline the group organizer wants to bring together.
The numbers of meetups are growing with 5.7 Million members scheduling 179,000 meetups each month in 11,507 cities around the world and covering 8,340 different topics. There is certainly an interest or topic out there that you can find to fit your personality.
Here in Tampa Bay there are numerous local business and Internet related meetups scheduled each and every week. There is usually no cost to join a group, although sometimes the organizer ask for donations to help cover the costs of the meetup group fees ($20.00 a month) and the meetup location costs. Most groups meet at local restaurants or businesses but a meetup could be scheduled anywhere, even in a public park.
The idea is clearly to meet like minded people, no matter what your inclinations or interests are, there are certainly others who enjoy or want to learn more about the same topics. From getting together to discuss bird watching to photography or small business networking, the idea is a sound and somewhat nostalgic premise. Our parents joined the Elks or the Moose or the Rotary clubs and still do. Somewhere along the line the majority of Americans gravitated away from these time honored groups and became more secular. Now we are gravitating back to the social networking that our parents and grandparents knew was essential to personal and business growth.
Recently I started a meetup group based in Western Pinellas County. The Pinellas Suncoast Business Strategy Networking Workshop the premise of this group is to get together like minded small business people centered along the beach corridor of Pinellas County to discuss business ideas and challenges in an effort to share ideas and grow as a group of entrepaneurs and business managers.
As an organizer of a group like this it can be a bit stressful when the time comes to actually hold the first meeting but in our case all went well.
The PSBSNW meets every other Wednesday at the Holiday Inn Harborside Jimmy Guana's Restaurant at 3PM. The group consists of only 12 members so far but as one of the members, Tammy Taylor, said at the first meeting "It only takes two people to have an effective mastermind group" Tammy Taylor is an established podcast journalist and spirtual show host.
While the group may be small, the first meeting was more than any one member expected with an open atmosphere of sharing and brainstorming for each members business ideas and goals.
Another member, Irit is a fine art and estate jewelery specialist originally from Israel and she was impressed with the great tips she learned about getting her fine estate jewlery online faster and more effectively through the use of new and exciting tools and software that she was unaware of before.
Sheri Strykowski is a writer and has been published in national magazines and has worked on television productions. Sheri is just trying to refine her life long goal of building a sustainable internet business under her White Pineapple name and concept. She shared an incredible networking contact tip with Tammy at the meeting, giving Tammy a possible entry into the voice over marketplace doing commercials for a nationally known marketing company.
The point to coming face to face with your peers highlights the fact that not all knowlege and certainly not all social networking occurs on the Internet. Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Friendfeed are all great places to spend a little time each day. Face to face networking still may be the most productive and rewarding social networking anyone can do - even today. Try organizing or attending a meetup in your area - based upon your interests. You may be pleasantly surprised that old fashioned social interaction is still the number one way to expand your own horizons.