"People do want to connect to one another," said Myles Weissleder, a spokesman for Meetup.com, which claims to have helped about 3 million participants do just that.
Conceived as an antidote to the social barrenness described in Robert Putnam's 2000 book, "Bowling Alone," the Internet site enables people to post ideas for "meetups" with like-minded people at a particular time and place. The goal, Weissleder said, is to "restimulate local community in America."
To that end, Meetup.com participants sometimes knit together. They study the Bible together, or Chinese. They play poker together, ride their Ducati motorcycles together and even somehow share their interest in vampires.
Meetups cost those who post them $20 a month or less, which participants often are asked to defray.
According to Weissleder, there've been more than 200,000 successful meetups in the United States and abroad.
"Our day and age makes it harder to connect: the long commutes, the-dual income families, the distraction of screens. People are lonely," Weissleder said.
"This is really providing a sociological good."
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
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