One by one they arrive joining the circle of crisscrossed seated strangers in the middle of Hellman Hollow at Golden Gate Park. They introduce themselves, “Hi my name is Tyler,” “Hi I’m Sophie, “Hey guys, my name is Jeremy.” It’s early noon while event host Arthur Bahr finishes setting up the activities for today’s Picnic & Games MeetUp and more people trickle in as everyone else continues small talk, evaluating potential friendships and their Corn Hole partner for the day.

MeetUp, while not as commonly known or talked about as other social networks, is an online community that allows people to create or attend local “meet up” groups and events with like-minded people who share the same hobbies.

After moving to San Francisco five years ago, 28-year-old, Arthur Bahr became a co-organizer of the “20-Somethings in San Francisco” MeetUp group and hosts on average, six events a month. Unable to hide his smile, he speaks highly of the social possibilities MeetUp opens up for people and shares, “All of my best friends I’ve made in the city I met through MeetUp.”

During a time when so much of our communication is digital, MeetUp is the best of both worlds, real and virtual. All it takes is a few clicks on MeetUp’s website and visitors can browse through groups that they find interesting to follow. MeetUp is available in 182 countries and there are over 272,000 groups to pick from. No niche goes unnoticed as there are groups for everything.

Bahr chuckles as he lists endless possibilities of groups and says, “Anything you can imagine, there’s a MeetUp group.” Just in San Francisco, groups range from broad categories such as different age group social meet ups to dog walking, photography adventures, sports junkies. There’s also more specific groups such as the “Bay Area Vegan Hiking Group.” Following a group means being notified of upcoming MeetUp events and being able to RSVP and see who else is going. That gives visitors a chance to contact attendees before the actual meet up.

While there are specified MeetUp groups for singles who are ready to mingle, MeetUp isn’t specifically a dating network. Some use it in attempt to meet “the one,” others join to make friends and get to know the area, and many are using it for its networking capabilities.

MeetUp is successful for whatever the use because it’s a real life experience that forces its users to have more than an elevator conversation with people and takes away the possibility of an “un-match” or a block that people might have experienced in the past. According to Harvard Business Review survey research, 95% of people said that face-to-face meetings are a key factor in successfully building and maintaining long-term relationships.

The beauty of strangers coming together to “meet up” is that it opens a venue for conversation along the lines of, “What brings you to this MeetUp? Where are you from? How many MeetUps have you been to?” and more engaging conversations. MeetUp challenges the idea that being an extrovert is necessary to make friends.

Jeremy Walker, who is a continuing MeetUp member but new to San Francisco says, “I think anybody can do it honestly, because I’m a pretty shy person in general but I feel like when you’re amongst other sort of shy people, those are probably the people who are joining these types of groups that feel like they need another outlet to meet new people if they’re not comfortable just going into a bar and going up to people that already have their groups of friends. I would recommend it for anybody.”

Sure, there are over hundreds of clubs and organizations at SF State but sometimes a break is needed from the campus life. MeetUp is another opportunity for new, non-resident students to get to know the city and make friends.  And it’s free. What college student doesn’t like that?

Marisela Enriquez, SF State freshman says, “I hadn’t heard of MeetUp before, but I’m an East Bay Area native and since I started school in the city, it seems like a great idea to meet more people and get to know local spots out here.”

Arthur’s Picnic & Games MeetUp was stocked with beer, wine, an assortment of finger foods, games, and most importantly, a collection of people genuinely enjoying each other's company, no one would have guessed they were strangers that morning.

Jeremy who’s four weeks new to San Francisco, exchanged numbers with three other people at the Meet Up and has already plans to go to Arthur’s next Meet Up, “Tour de North Beach” pub crawl, on June 3rd.