Teresa Ovalle

Welcome to Me

The Mobility of Socializing

on April 13, 2014

Meetup.com is an awesome site that allows the user to easily find like-minded people in their area. The user signs up for an account, she types in the type of group she would like to find and a number of great opportunities populate the screen. She then takes a look at the groups that interest her, and off she goes. Meetup.com brings local people together to do things they enjoy.

Meetup.com claims to be “the world’s largest network of local groups.” It has 15.92 million members and 142,319 groups in 196 countries. A person can find just about anything she wants to do via Meetup.

Meetup’s mission is to “revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.”

The Meetup mission statement ties directly in to an article I read by Lee Humphreys titled Mobile Social Networks and Urban Public Space. Simply put, this article is about how people use telecommunications to find each other in the local area and meet up to socialize.

Humphreys “identifies three kinds of urban social space: public, parochial and private.” (pg. 6) A public space is characterized by strangers, whereas a private space is characterized by the people we know. (pg. 6) Humphreys also mentions a third space called the parochial space, whereby people are bound together not necessarily by a close tie, but by a personal network or community, such as a neighborhood. (pg. 6)

The different spaces can easily overlap. Most people have found themselves at a party that they felt like an outsider, but the other guests were clearly in the know. The outsider may have noticed that she had entered a community that she was not originally a member. But since she was invited to the community, she can familiarize herself with it and learn to be a part of it, or not.

Mobile social media networks help users become familiar with their surroundings by meeting with friends where they are. A friend may socialize that he is at a local coffee establishment and would like others to join him.

Depending on the location of others and the timing that his friends may be available, his friends may join him for coffee. Humphreys states that, “Parochilization can be defined as the process of creating, sharing and exchanging information, social and locational, to contribute to a sense of commonality among a group of people in public space.” The coffee drinker created a place to meet with friends, sent them his location and asked his friends to join him. Although this group was in a public space, they created their own parochial community.

To change the scenario a bit, let’s say that the coffee drinker socialized that he was heading out for coffee at the local coffee shop, but in transit, he received a message from a friend that asked the coffee drink to change his plans and join his friend at a deli. This is referred to as redirection. “Redirection relates to people’s ability to act on information obtained through their mobile phone to change trips already in progress.” (pg. 7) The use of mobile technology allows the coffee drinker and his friends to change plans on the fly and redirect to somewhere different.

Another advantage of mobile socializing is that the coffee drinker is not limited to meeting with friends in his own neighborhood, the coffee drinker can socialize with friends anywhere he may be in the world. This allows the traveler to have a “sense of social familiarity in unfamiliar locations by allowing groups of friends to coordinate congregation while traveling.” (pg. 11)

Some researchers “warn that mobile social software can lead to homophilous tendencies rather than extending and bridging social circles.” (pg. 14) This may be true whether people connect via mobile socializing or not. I think people tend to go to gatherings with like-minded people whether they were invited by meetup or via a party invitation in the mail. Most people tend to go to gatherings with people they know and with whom they connect. I think there is most often a chance to bridge different social circles, but it’s whether the party attendee wants to take the opportunity.

Either way, the mobility of socializing makes meeting with friends very convenient.

About Meetup

Humphreys, L. (2010). Mobile social networks and urban public space. New Media & Society, 12(5), 763-778.