Going online to meet people offline
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.