Why Everyone Is Talking About This Group For 20- And 30-Somethings
Millennial Suburbanites Are Finding New Ways To Meet
by Abigail Wolfe, entertainment editor
Having trouble meeting new people? You’re not alone. Or maybe you are alone … and don’t want to be. In August 2021, Michael Wehar, a visiting assistant professor at Swarthmore College, decided to make a new way to make new friends. The world was just coming out of COVID, and a wide swath of 20- and 30-somethings had been deeply affected by the pandemic’s forced social isolation. Wehar and a group of like-minded people created Philadelphia Main Line 20’s and 30’s Suburban Social Group using MeetUp.
“I’ve always known that I care about people,” says Wehar. “Like most people I get caught up in my work and then I forget to keep in touch. Then a month goes by, then two months, and then that got worse over COVID-19.”
Now, the group has over 1,900 members and 90 percent of them live in the suburbs throughout the Main Line. They gather for events like Quizzo Night in Ardmore, Photo Walks in Valley Forge, Game Night at Round One, and Funky Brunch at Ardmore Music Hall. April events include comedy night in Exton, a visit to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Fairmount Park (94 people are already going), and paint your own pottery at Mud Room Studio in Ardmore. For June, the group is planning events focused on food, drinks, walking, movies, trips, board games, and more.
Wehar moderates the Philadelphia Main Line 20’s and 30’s Suburban Social Group to promote meeting new people with similar interests, making new friends, and creating genuine human connections. Wehar’s group is a bit more production than going to a bar and hoping for the best. The idea actually stemmed from the need to plan a time to see his own friends, prompting him to create an event on MeetUp. Wehar and the three strangers who attended the event are now close friends. That success encouraged Wehar to extend the idea to other people.
Even without COVID precautions, not everyone is an extrovert who easily strikes up conversations with new people. Does a stranger have any common interests? Will he or she want to speak with you or get creeped out? Philadelphia Main Line Meet Up answers a lot of those questions via group events geared towards different interests and activities to provide a safe space for connection and fun.
The suburban social group has almost 35 co-organizers who bring different event ideas to the table and actively execute those plans. From hiking to comedy shows, happy hours to bowling nights, there is something for everyone throughout the month.
In addition to creating opportunities to make friends, these groups also provide safe spaces to try new things. Hiking is one example. “Initially, I was kind of scared about this idea of mostly being with people I don’t know in the woods,” recalls Wehar. “And I’m like … this doesn’t sound like a great idea!”
That’s a valid concern. Hiking in the woods with strangers could go very wrong. But as Michael learned – after two or three tries – most groups have people share their names and photos in a profile, so when you arrive you see some familiar faces. He also found that they had genuine interest in hiking – and the people joining. That’s the premise embedded into Philadelphia Main Line Meet Up. Great activities, great people, great vibe.
Groups similar to the Philadelphia Main Line 20s and 30s Suburban Social Group exist throughout the country and especially in big cities. Something is always happening in Philadelphia, but co-organizers plan events spanning from Ardmore to Malvern and even West Chester. For Julia, a 35 year old newcomer to Wynnewood, city parking is a well-known nightmare, so supporting a small business in her town where things either have ample parking or are within walking distance saves both time and money.
Suburban Social Group has big and small events. Jessica, a 24-year old from West Chester, regularly organizes Drag Karaoke, a night featuring two drag queen shows. Between performances, guests to have fun singing karaoke songs. When asked if she preferred larger events or smaller events since there is a good mix of the two, Jessica said, “It really depends on the location. For Drag Karaoke, we prefer a small audience since it’s a smaller bar.”
Michael, Julia, and Jessica love what the group has to offer. Michael continues to meet new people whom he relates to and creates genuine connections with. “In the city, you can go downstairs and immediately see a ton of people, and there are a ton of options just from looking around. But in the suburbs, you have to make an active effort to go out and interact or find people in your age group or who share your interests. We tend attract people who have been looking for ways to interact and that ends up leading to a lot of really great first impressions.”
Both Michael and Jessica attest to the group’s ability to successfully bring people together. They have found close friends after attending events through the Suburban Social Group. For Julia, the consistency and longevity of the group have been keys. She credits that success to the ample number of co-organizers. “I like that lots of people are involved. I think one reason why a lot of MeetUp groups fail after a while is because they are dependent on just a couple people organizing everything.”
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