Despite its name, there is an element to social media that's not so, well ... social.
Twitter users rarely know everyone they talk to online. Oftentimes, only a fraction of their followers are people they've actually ever met in person.
A group of Pittsburghers are working to make those connections a little more personal. Every month, they gather in person at a different spot around town to eat, drink and put a real face to the names they've seen only online.
"It's very laid-back," says Andy Quayle (@techburgh), 33, of Munhall, one of the organizers of Pittsburgh TweetUp (@PghTweetUp). "We say we're putting the 'social' back in social networking."
The monthly events attract as many as 50 people at a time. They've met everywhere from IKEA to Piper's Pub, the Carnegie Science Center to Finnigan's Wake. Sometimes, events serve as fundraisers for organizations like The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. All are welcome.
The next one, set for 6 to 9 p.m. May 24, at Wigle Whiskey in the Strip District, will benefit the Pittsburgh Promise.
The gatherings are casual, with folks sipping drinks, shaking hands and getting to know their virtual friends.
"We can see the value in getting a group of people together and having people interact face-to-face," says William Reynolds Young, 23, of Castle Shannon, fellow TweetUp organizer (@WReynoldsYoung). "It's a networking event without the formality."
Young knows the value of that connection personally. He met his two closest friends online and even pursued launching an online technology blog with them before ever seeing them in person for the first time in January.
Katie Biehl, 32, of Monroeville, (@KatieB480), has been to several of the events, most recently at the April TweetUp at the Tin Front Cafe in Homestead.
"You meet a lot of new people, get some new followers," she says. "Everyone is really cool. You just hang out. There's no pressure."
John Quayle, 25, of Canonsburg (@jpquayle) started following Andy Quayle online simply because of their shared last name -- there's no relation.
"It's a quality group of people," John Quayle says. "It's a good way to hit places around town. If I'm trying a new place, why not try it with 20-plus new people?"
Young says the goal is to have events at as many places around the region as possible.
"We want to keep things new and interesting," he says. "Plus, if we have an event in the north, west, east or south, we tend to attract different folks."
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