meetup madness and the human factor
Hello Meetup :)
I smile about meetup, but not about this message I reluctantly send.
I was a member of meetup in the first year you started and started working nights - six years later I am back on days and so happy meetup has grown and become a friendly active site. I attend a meetup five or six times a week and have met some wonderful people. Most of your organizers here in Orlando are great and cooperate with sharing information, which makes it even better for us members. An example is Tara of [this meetup] who actually posted a charity event I am doing on her group's calendar the same night she has another event scheduled. Another meetup organizer who offered to do the same is SariLynn of [this meetup] - you have some great people helping you grow.
Unfortunately, I am writing to let you know that there is a group organizer who is using intimidation and rude behavior, including attempts at public embarrassment, to manipulate members into not joining or dropping out of other groups. She is the organizer of [this meetup].
I can tell you firsthand that she dropped me from her two groups after I was a member in good standing for half a year, attending many events and making friends with many who remained my friend after I was dropped (and they were in turn dropped for choosing to remain my friend). When I asked her why she dropped me, she responded, "just separating the herd" with a wink as if it's some joke. It is no joke to be treated like cattle.
I had tickets to movies set up by her group and when I showed up with friends from her group who planned to attend with me, she hide out of view, but people, in front of a public movie theatre, told me they were told not to talk to me. The friends who sat with me were removed from her group. People have told me they will not send me a shout anymore because it will get them thrown out of her group. All who do talk to me online or publically have been removed from her group. People have even asked me to just lay low and not attend meetups. A meetup organizer should not have such power.
A few days after her unexplained removal (and I still had no idea why at the time), there was a birthday meetup planned for two friends. These two friends were her assistant organizers. I called one who has organized a public trivia night (it was called her trivia night, by her name, and the head organizer did not always attend) at a public restaurant and asked if she was still in charge of it and should I not come. My friend, the assistant who's event this had been since it's inception, told me it was her event, so I should come. I decided to go with other friends and not sit with the group, not wanting to create more tension than there might already be. I wanted to be there because it was a birthday celebration for two of my friends, who happened to be the assistant organizers of the group.
When I showed up at the public restaurant, a public event that her meetup group was just a small part of, an event I had attended for months with her group when she wasn't even there, she tried to publicly humiliate me making childish mocking faces and hand gestures that most people laughed at, though some wondered about and quietly asked me "what did you do?" when she'd give them dirty looks for talking to me. I had no idea I did anything to offend her and she chose not to explain, just cull me from her herd as if I was cattle.
When I stood up to wish a Happy Birthday to the two assistant organizers, my friends, one is my next-door neighbor, she walked over, interrupted my birthday wishes, and instructed me to leave because the table was reserved for her group. I was standing, not sitting, in a public restaurant. She was belligerent and hostile in tone and demeanor and physically, way too close for comfort. I was not sitting at her table, I was just wishing my friends a happy birthday in a public place where I had intended to attend their party for weeks, yet she felt empowered to try, very rudely, to control her members and me.
Most of her group came over to the table where I was sitting to talk to me during the evening and ask me what I did, ignoring very dirty looks she would give them. I had no idea, so told them to ask her. I was trying to enjoy myself and wanted to let it go – it's her group, she can do what she wants with it.
Most of them have remained my friends. She's dropped every one of the people who talked to me from her friends list and from her groups. Three of her assistant organizers have left because of her pressure to ostracize me and others, and worse, she is intimidating total strangers who come up to me at other meetups telling me they "heard about me". People have told me that they will not send me a shout because she would remove them from her group.
She apparently does not know how to let go of her anger (and has no reason to be angry with me) and is definitely trying to manipulate people through intimidation and as she, in her own words said, "just separating the herd". It might be an amusing joke if she was not actually treating people like cattle she can round up and cull at will. A few dozen people or more may have been removed and felt similar pressure for no reason.
This is what someone I met only once, a month ago at another meetup, wrote to me just yesterday:
"hi ric, she's at it again. this time she's showing up at my meetups on my turf (graphic design, the creative field). she stared me down last night and fooled everyone with her charm. she's like a character in a movie. I am tempted to not go back, but really that's my deal so I will just try to ignore her. how are you doing?
Members of her group (and former members who were dropped because they were friendly with me or other people she seems to have targeted) told me what apparently happened, which I relate below, but the above is my first hand experience with her.
From what I am told, a friend of one of her assistant organizers asked to join and was denied, apparently because he belongs to another group. Apparently there are several meetup organizers who have been marked "bad" by this one organizer. The guy was turned down for being in the wrong group. The assistant asked for her friend to be accepted and the organizer said no, so the assistant left the group and started her own. I and about four dozen other people, having no idea what happened between them, joined the new group. Within a few hours, we were deleted from the first group, [group name]. That was when I first asked the organizer why and she send the terse "just separating the herd" email. No explanation, just cattle talk.
I always thought her third group, called "Separating From The Herd" was just a joke, but she apparently has some serious psychological issues and seems to treat people as pawns, or in her words, cattle.
Every member of her group, dozens, who quite innocently joined the new group was immediately deleted without explanation and some have been harassed at other meetups. Her two assistant organizers (not the one who started the new group, but long time organizers) told me they left because she was rudely pressuring them to not talk to me or anyone who joined the other group. As I said, one is my neighbor and he couldn't believe her gall and paranoia.
It has been three or four weeks since the incident at the trivia night that I described above. I only contacted her once, that night by email, explaining that she was hurting a lot of people who had no idea what was going on and she should step back and look at the bigger picture. I will share my email with you if you like, just to show I was trying to be helpful and a friend. I have not approached her or the group since.
I ignored the tension at meetups until I received the email that I quoted above in this rather long message. Suddenly meetup has turned into junior high school and I want no part of that.
I don't know what you can do about in-fighting between meetup organizers, but I can tell you that I belong to many groups and most organizers are great and though a few can be a bit sensitive and territorial, most are are welcoming, friendly, and happy to have new members.
Perhaps meetup can do nothing, I do not like the idea that that meetup provides someone the power to influence hundreds of people without any limitations on behavior, so I hope some cautionary message is sent. When a meetup organizer is asking people to choose sides in a war that, as far as I can see, is mostly in her head, and uses meetup power to intimidate those people, it becomes meetup's problem.
I know the assistant who had the friend rejected which virtually forced her to start a new group, she is one of the organizers I praised earlier in this message. She deliberately will not cross schedule meetups in the hope that the tension will subside, in spite of the fact that many are asking for the same events they joined the other group for. Until I was "separated from the herd" with a wink, I was praising [group] organizer most of all. She obviously fooled me and a lot of people with superficial friendliness.
I'm heading out to a meetup now, like I do most nights of the week (and often multiple times on Saturday and Sunday). I have not been to my favorite dinner theatre since this occurred because she seems to think she owns the place and no one who was deleted will go back there yet. I have a $60 membership to the theatre, so I will be going back, but I prefer to socialize and not sit by myself getting an evil eye from someone who has dozens of people around to ask her why she is hostile to me. I don't want to imagine what her motivation or justification might be.
Meetup groups should not be run by children who play these games.
I thank you for reading and hope this is not seen as trouble-making. I prefer to enjoy myself and it takes a lot for me to feel the need to complain. I suppose this is a month of taking crap (through what others are telling me she is doing) from someone who thinks she's god, or a cattle rancher, coming out.
Thanks for meetup, it's a great idea and a wonderful site. Feel free to call if I can help in any way (and I don't just mean in this particular case).
I shall focus on the fun now :)
and that's the story as i related it to meetup... i think the two things that pushed me to write meetup were the emails i've been receiving (many are more intense and sad than the one i quoted) and the fact that others are writing meetup and i want to support the complaint with my first have experience and what i know in the hope that meetup can find a way to keep the organizer from ruining the meetup experience for a lot of people simply because she has some apparent psychological problems that she usually hides very well...
you do come here for the Real stuff, right?...
now have fun out there :)