By Gloria Lloyd
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer
In dog parks and coffee shops, in subjects spanning Buddhism to poetry, Carrboro residents are busy organizing online and congregating offline around their shared interests. While Facebook is a way to keep up with old friends, Meetup.com is a social networking site geared toward meeting new friends.
The Meetup website makes it easy for people to focus new acquaintances around a common interest, rather than the more traditional sorting of age, occupation, or neighborhood. Anyone can register at the Meetup website, browse by location and interest, and join groups for free, but organizers of the interest-based Meetups are charged a fee of $72 for six months.
Carrboro resident Jason Casden, who organizes the weekly Carrboro Chess Meetup, and is a member of a few other Meetup groups, said, “I think it’s interesting to see people self-organize without pre-defined groupings. It’s easier to find people with a common interest.” Casden explained that Meetup makes it easier to “meet a huge set of people outside the normal path of what types of classes you take, where you live, where you work.”
Carrboro Small Dog Meetup organizer Michelle Vitko moved to Carrboro over the summer and hoped to find a few tiny playmates for Rupert, her energetic five-pound Yorkshire terrier.
But Vitko and Rupert repeatedly found themselves alone in the small dog area at Southern Community Park near Southern Village in Chapel Hill. Vitko said, “I would bring Rupert here, and he would just look through the fence—I realized I had to start something like this [Meetup] or get another dog.”
Vitko started the Small Dog Meetup about two months ago, posting the meeting times on the more regional Toy Dogs of the Triangle Meetup group and advertising the old-fashioned way with fliers at apartment complexes, pet stores and the dog park fence. Attendance has reached about 20 small dogs per meeting, and the group has expanded to meet twice a week, Monday evenings at 6:30 and Saturday mornings at 9:30.
Small dog owner John Sparrow of Chapel Hill said he appreciated the opportunity for his Yorkie-chihuahua mix, Mickey, to socialize with dogs of similar size. His dog park experience prior to the Meetup echoed Vitko’s. “Our dog was the only one here. With Mickey weighing seven pounds, he wouldn’t even make a decent appetizer to the big dogs over there.”
In addition to dogs meeting other dogs, Vitko said the group is a useful way for newcomers to meet other people. “I love it. I think you get a whole bunch of people together, who might not get to meet each other otherwise. You can sit and relax or socialize.”
For Meetups not held outdoors like the Small Dog Meetup and the Carrboro Cruisers bicycling group, the most common gathering places are Carrboro’s coffee shops.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro Games Meetup organizer Brian Sowers described his Meetup as “a very casual atmosphere. People just come and play games and joke around for two, three hours.”
The gamers divide into subgroups in order to play multiple games. According to Sowers, the group rotates through a “fairly long list” of games, including Settlers of Catan, Dominion, Small World, Dungeon Lords, Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, in addition to “a lot of esoteric stuff that no one’s ever heard of.”
The Carrboro Games Meetup gathers every Tuesday night at the Looking Glass Café, and on the second Tuesday of the month, Meetup groups converge when the Chapel Hill Area Poetry Meetup meets at the same place and time.
Casden’s chess group meets every Saturday afternoon at Jessee’s, and the Stitch n’ Bitch sewing and knitting group meets at the Open Eye on the first and third Thursdays of every month at the Open Eye. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Cribbage Meetup usually schedules its monthly meeting for 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month, also at the Open Eye.
A few Carrboro Meetup groups focus on spiritual pursuits. The Kosala Buddhist Center hosts a Buddhism Meetup that informs members of all the activities and classes at Kosala throughout the week. A separate meditation group organizes a Meeting for Meditation at the Carrboro Town Commons every Thursday evening.
The Reiki in Carrboro Meetup group focuses on alternative medicine and healing and meets at the home of the organizer, reiki teacher William Young. The Conscious Dance Meetup group based in Carrboro notifies members of opportunities related to specific dance forms, including Nia, which incorporates healing arts.
Carrboro Small Dog Meetup – Mondays, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Southern Community Park dog park by Southern Village
Buddhism Meetup – meditation class Mondays, 7:30 p.m., Kosala Buddhist Center
Carrboro Gaming Meetup – Tuesdays, 7-10 p.m., Looking Glass Café
Buddhism Meetup – Meditation 101, Tuesdays, 7 p.m., Kosala Buddhist Center
Chapel Hill Area Poetry Meetup – Second Tuesdays, 7 p.m., Looking Glass Café
Chapel Hill-Carrboro Cribbage Meetup – Third Tuesdays, 7 p.m., Open Eye
Meeting for Meditation – Thursdays, 8 p.m., Carrboro Town Commons
Carrboro Small Dog Meetup – Saturdays, 9:30 a.m., Southern Village dog park
Carrboro Cruisers – Third Saturday of the month, 10:30 a.m.
Carrboro Chess Meetup – Saturdays, 3 p.m., Jessee’s
Carrboro/Chapel Hill Area Web 2.0 Developers Meetup – Third Saturdays, 7 p.m., Carrboro Coworking