Go­ing online to meet peo­ple off­line

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By LEE MEI LI star2@thes­tar.com.my

JOHNNY Low, 52, has been a sin­gle dad for 18 years. De­spite hav­ing had lit­tle luck with online dat­ing, the fa­ther of three is still con­vinced the In­ter­net is the best place to find his match. Aside from strik­ing up con­ver­sa­tions with strangers on dat­ing-fo­cused so­cial net­work­ing sites like WAYN, Badoo and Hi5, Low is a mem­ber of Meetup, an in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity-based net­work­ing por­tal.

Through Meetup.com, mem­bers or­gan­ise face-to-face meet-ups based on in­ter­ests, or join one of the many ex­ist­ing and up­com­ing mee­tups.

From boardgame en­thu­si­asts to film buffs to French speak­ers, Meetup usu­ally has some­thing for ev­ery­one. While Meetup isn’t ex­actly for find­ing a po­ten­tial part­ner per se, it does help those who are sin­gle or newly-sin­gle to step out of his or her com­fort zone, as Low has dis­cov­ered.

“When I first joined Meetup, it was with the idea that there would be chances to meet that spe­cial some­one. I be­lieve that it is the same for most of the mem­bers – about 90% of them are sin­gle and look­ing.”

Low is one for the out­doors, and was im­me­di­ately taken with the Out­doors Ad­ven­tur­ers and Ex­plor­ers group.

“At Meetup, any­one can or­gan­ise an event but if you’re rel­a­tively un­known, the re­sponse wouldn’t be any good, of course. It took me awhile to build up my pro­file as an or­gan­iser. Now, with sup­port from the founder of the KL Meetup com­mu­nity, I get to broad­cast the de­tails of my events, via e-mail, to over 2,000 mem­bers at any one time.”

The meet-ups that Low has since or­gan­ised are usu­ally of a smaller scale, a com­fort­able group of be­tween 10 to 20 peo­ple who share a love for bowl­ing, danc­ing, or ad­ven­ture-themed trips over­seas. His cir­cle of friends has since ex­panded, and the many ac­tiv­i­ties have helped fill up his time.

For Low, the con­cept of Meetup re­moves some of the awk­ward­ness as­so­ci­ated with events cater­ing to sin­gles on the look­out for love.

“There are also dat­ing-cen­tric mee­tups specif­i­cally for sin­gles but I’ve never at­tended any of them. I find those sit­u­a­tions a lit­tle awk­ward. I’m a bit shy. I pre­fer to meet as friends first and just let the chem­istry flow nat­u­rally from there,” he says.

Af­ter com­ing dan­ger­ously close to be­ing cheated by a woman he met online, Low is tread­ing more care­fully in the realm of vir­tual dat­ing, and prefers to have more face-to-face con­tact be­fore pur­su­ing a re­la­tion­ship.

“I was chat­ting online with a lady from Bri­tain for about three weeks when she told me she wanted to visit Malaysia. On the day of her ar­rival, I re­ceived a call and she told me she was be­ing held by cus­toms of­fi­cers be­cause she had brought along too much cash, and that I had to pay RM5,000 for her re­lease. When I re­fused, she ceased con­tact al­most im­me­di­ately. I’m re­ally glad I didn’t fall for the trap. There are a lot of peo­ple out there who are not into se­ri­ous re­la­tion­ships and if you’re not care­ful, you may just get conned.”

In­ter­est­ingly, Meetup par­tic­i­pants are more of­ten women than men (much to Low’s de­light). “I’ve al­ways been cu­ri­ous my­self – where have all the guys gone? Even for out­door ac­tiv­i­ties, there’d al­ways be more women at­tend­ing.”

In Low’s opin­ion, it may very well boil down to the ego fac­tor.

“I do have sin­gle male friends who are re­luc­tant to join Meetup and prac­ti­cally any­thing that pushes them out­side their com­fort zone. I al­ways tell them: you can­not sit at home and wait for peo­ple to come to you. If you want some­thing, you’ve got to take the first step to make it hap­pen. If you’re into food, join a makan group. If you’re shy, bring a friend along with you. Be brave and see where it leads you.”

Johnny Low (wear­ing a cap) first joined Meetup hop­ing there would be op­por­tu­ni­ties to meet that spe­cial some­one.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.