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In the jungle, a social jungle, this chapter keeps it light

Source: The Beacon

By Lisa Ebert

LYNNHAVEN � It�s a jungle out there. That�s why Mike Herd established a lowkey social network in Washington, D.C., as a way for strangers to meet and have fun in a group setting.

That Yahoo group has expanded to 88 cities in just three years, and has its own Web site: Meetin.org .

The local chapter boasts 117 members. An ad might read: Must be willing to try new things, share in conversation and laugh at oneself. No sexual tension.

�We are not a dating service,� notes the Web site.

Jennifer Peirson, 31, is the local ringleader. She started the group this time last year by dragging her friends to events she had planned.

�It was really slow-going up until four months ago,� she said.

But as word has grown, so has the diverse group of people who attend local MEETin events. The Virginia Beach chapter includes people from across Hampton Roads, Pierson said.

Members range in age from the early 20s through the 50s, and include singles and married couples. The group includes some Navy wives with grown children, seeking a safe way to learn more about the area.

The majority of the group are 20- to 30-something singles. There is no prerequisite for joining, and no membership dues.

Activities include lectures, zoo outings and the popular $1 night at Cinema Cafe.

Herd encourages creativity, and said one of the most unique events he�s heard about is a takeoff on �Ferris Bueller�s Day Off.� Several D.C. group members played hooky from work and mimicked scenes � French restaurant, baseball game � from the �80s movie.

Herd said he is happy about the growth in Virginia Beach, and credits Meetin�s success to its Internet presence.

Members typically post photos of themselves at chili cook-offs, improv dinners and the like. They publicize upcoming events, such as this year�s annual European convention, where members will picnic at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

�Personally, I�ve met amazing people all over the world,� Herd said.

Herd also assured that he�s built in spam filters to protect MEETin members. It�s also encouraged that members use only first names on the Web and in photos, all for their protection.

Peirson, a court reporter who lives in Chesapeake Beach, learned about MEETin from some former college friends who belonged to the D.C. chapter. She joined them for a New Year�s Eve party, and decided to start a chapter here.

�After you�re out of college, it�s hard to meet people,� she said.

MEETin is completely dependent on volunteer event planners.

�The day we charge,� Herd said, �is the day the whole grass-roots community would die.�

01/15/06