App helps a friend ease into new city

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

In this social media age, it’s hard to believe you can pick up and move to a new city and not know a single person. No family. No friends. No friends of friends.

But that’s exactly what happened to my friend, Sam (I changed his name; you’ll understand why in a second).

After some tension with a girlfriend, a crappy job, and the feeling his 30s were passing him by, Sam relocated from Charlotte to Dallas in hopes of finding a better life.

“This isn’t to say Charlotte is a bad place. I loved it there,” Sam explained in a Facebook Messenger exchange (he gave me permission to include our conversation here so long as I changed his name and didn’t mention his ex-girlfriend by name).

“(I) needed to escape the job and some people. (I) needed a change of pace if I wanted to be happy.”

But what he found was loneliness, which was hard for me to understand considering his elaborate connections on social media.

He was figuratively connected to everyone. He has “500+” connections on LinkedIn (he said the number tops 4,000 connections), more than 2,000 Facebook “friends,” and a smattering of Twitter followers.

Surely he’d know someone in Dallas.

“I had tons of friends in Charlotte. Now I’m on an island in Dallas,” he explained.

“Side note: yes, I’m connected to some people in Dallas, but through (ex-girlfriend). So it would be really weird, and possibly bad, if I reached out to one or more of them.”

Good point.

“So what does ‘Mr. Social Media’ have for a lonely guy in a big city,” Sam asked. “And no. Don’t tell me to use Tinder. That’s one of the reasons I ended up in Dallas.”

Another good point.

He wasn’t ready to date (his words; not mine), so dating apps were off the table.

Instead, I suggested using apps that connected him with people offline, but for reasons other than finding love and hooking up.

We turned to Meetup (available for Android and iOS devices). This app brings people together with similar interests online to explore, teach and learn things offline.

Meetup has more than 32 million members, 288,000 Meetup groups in 182 countries, nearly 615,000 monthly “meetings,” and 4 million monthly RSVPs for events.

“People run marathons, thanks to running Meetups. They write, thanks to writing Meetups. They change their careers, thanks to career Meetups,” the app description reads.

“(Meetup users) talk, help, mentor and support each other – all in pursuit of moving their lives forward.” This is exactly what Sam needed.

And so far, so good.

Sam is a runner and outdoor enthusiast. Once he signed on to Meetup, he joined a local running group.

“Next week I’m taking a kayaking class,” he said. “Wish me luck.”

Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn.