Monday, 12 September 2011

connect: empire state of mind

I haven't been to New York in just over ten years. 

It is easy to date because it doesn't look the same anymore.

I paid a ridiculous entry fee to see the view from the top of the World Trade Center, only to be told afterwards by a friendly New Yorker (they exist) that I could have spent that money on a burger at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the adjacent tower, and enjoyed the same view, with a meal. 

So I went straight back up and did exactly that. 

The second time was just as mind-blowing as the first - perhaps more so given how great Americans are at burgers.

How the world has changed in ten years - and the course of history altered in a way none of us would have foreseen 11 years ago. 

As the towers fell, the internet crashed at work - we couldn't get news fast enough. I was working for IBM on a project that allowed two companies to have a dual interface - 'revolutionary', they called it. It involved Lotus Notes. 

I never would have guessed then that the internet would become my work, my connection with my friends, the source of online friends, and my lifeline (repeated trips to countries with poor broadband service will teach you quickly just how much of a lifeline it is).

So when I received this mail today in my inbox, one which countless of you will have also received, I wanted to share it: 

Fellow Meetuppers,

I don't write to our whole community often, but this week is special because it's the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and many people don't know that Meetup is a 9/11 baby.

Let me tell you the Meetup story. I was living a couple miles from the Twin Towers, and I was the kind of person who thought local community doesn't matter much if we've got the internet and tv. The only time I thought about my neighbors was when I hoped they wouldn't bother me.

When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors in the days after 9/11 than ever before. People said hello to neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they'd normally ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each other, and meeting up with each other. You know, being neighborly.

A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring people together in a lasting way. So the idea for Meetup was born: Could we use the internet to get off the internet -- and grow local communities?

We didn't know if it would work. Most people thought it was a crazy idea -- especially because terrorism is designed to make people distrust one another.

A small team came together, and we launched Meetup 9 months after 9/11.

Today, almost 10 years and 10 million Meetuppers later, it's working. Every day, thousands of Meetups happen. Moms Meetups, Small Business Meetups, Fitness Meetups... a wild variety of 100,000 Meetup Groups with not much in common -- except one thing.

Every Meetup starts with people simply saying hello to neighbors. And what often happens next is still amazing to me. They grow businesses and bands together, they teach and motivate each other, they babysit each other's kids and find other ways to work together. They have fun and find solace together. They make friends and form powerful community. It's powerful stuff.

It's a wonderful revolution in local community, and it's thanks to everyone who shows up.

Meetups aren't about 9/11, but they may not be happening if it weren't for 9/11.

9/11 didn't make us too scared to go outside or talk to strangers. 9/11 didn't rip us apart. No, we're building new community together!!!!

The towers fell, but we rise up. And we're just getting started with these Meetups.

Scott Heiferman (on behalf of 80 people at Meetup HQ) 
Co-Founder & CEO, Meetup New York City September 2011

I feel a little more connected today.


image: google


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