You’re busy. I get it. You don’t think you have time to attend a WordPress Meetup. Or maybe there isn’t one close to you.
Whatever the reason, this blog post is meant to encourage you to go anyway.
And I walk the talk. It takes me anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half to go to my local Meetups because — traffic. But I go anyway.
I talked about how important the WordPress Community has been to my career and personal life in detail in my WordCamp Cincinnati talk that you can watch here.
Let’s table the WordPress Community for a minute and talk about community in general.
I was recently watching Stephen Fry’s America on Netflix. In Episode 3 about the Mississippi, he discussed something that surprised me — the Hmong Community in Minnesota. After the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam, the Hmong immigrants were settled there (among other places).
Because of the extreme weather in Minnesota, people don’t walk on the streets outside in the winter. Instead, they walk from building to building in closed pedestrian walkways called skyways. Without people walking outside, there was a lack of community interaction.
Not unlike most groups of people, the Hmong came from a village life. A village life bustles with community. Community interaction starts with the little things you say when you’re passing by and engaging in chit chat. You know, small talk. Because of the weather, there was a real effect on the men of the Hmong community. They were prematurely dying in their sleep.
They proactively built up their community with Hmong grocery stores, law offices, and the like to facilitate community bonding. Now, with over 40,000 people, it’s one of the largest Hmong settlements outside of southeast asia.
The moral to the story is that isolation is dangerous — not just to mental health — but to physical health, too.
Community and Remote Workers.
So, back to our demographic: WordPress enthusiasts.
Many of us, because of the independence that we’re afforded by the power of the silicon chip and Internet, work remotely.
In other words, we work alone.
So, we’re not getting all of that chit chat.
I know what you’re saying. Your team does Zoom hangouts and you have a Slack channel. But if you look into your heart of hearts, can you really say that it’s the same?
Sure, you’re productive when you are zoned out listening to house music and working on your code. But are you okay?
Isolation and Silence
Prisons have tried isolation and silence as methods of both punishment and reform. The famous, now abolished, Auburn system believed silence was necessary part of that reform.
“Silence was the biggest factor in the line of rules the prisoners had to follow. John D. Cray, a deputy warden at the Auburn Prison, demanded that the prisoners be completely silent to take away the prisoners’ ‘sense of self’. When the ‘sense of self’ was taken away, many convicts became compliant and obedient to the warden’s wishes.” Wikipedia
The fact that your sense of self is taken away because of complete silence should alert us — as remote workers. We aren’t meant to live in silence. By no means should online conversations over Slack, Twitter, et al replace in-person community.
We’re not prisoners. We’re remote workers.
We are wired for connection, conversation, and community.
This is one of the main reasons why being an active member of your local WordPress community is so important.
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” CS Lewis
Maybe friendship isn’t as necessary as food or water, but it’s right up there with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: love and belonging.
“According to Maslow, humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance among their social groups, regardless whether these groups are large or small. …Many people become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and clinical depression in the absence of this love or belonging element. This need for belonging may overcome the physiological and security needs, depending on the strength of the peer pressure.” Wikipedia
We need friendship. Don’t self-isolate. Our world is already isolating enough.
The WordPress Community
The WordPress Community is not just an ethereal thing. It’s just not the atmosphere that holds in oxygen. It’s people.
You will find that being part of a WordPress Meetup is much more than just discussing the latest release candidate, the best events plugin, or what IDE is the best.
Recently at SMMOC, another Meetup I attend, the organizer asked the following question:
“How do you rate the information we shared today from 1-10?”
Of course, I replied:
“It’s not about the information. It’s about the relationships we build while discussing the information.”
There was kind of a moment there, where we all realized this is true. If we focus on the quality of information, then if you “already know” the subject, maybe it’s “too boring” for you.
But community meetings are not meant to be informational only. It’s about building relationships from friendships to business partnerships.
It’s never something you regret attending. It’s something you regret not attending.
Walking the Talk
This should be called driving the talk. I live in Dana Point. The WordPress Meetups near me are 26 miles and 32 miles away. I have to drive everywhere.
Not only am I a co-organizer of Women Who WP, but I have made the commitment to attend the OC General Meetup every month. I’ve also been going to the Developer Day Meetup every so often, too. So, with the social media Meetup on Saturdays, I could potentially go to four Meetups a month but always attend a minimum of two.
Because of traffic, to go to my WordPress Meetups, I leave at 5:30 p.m. and I get home after 10:00 p.m.
So, for me — and I’m sure it’s the same for many of you — attending a Meetup can be a commitment as long at five hours. And I hire my dog sitter.
Is it worth it?
You bet your bottom dollar it is.
You are not alone.
Seriously. You have friends waiting for you — at the Meetup. We’ve been through the same things you have. We want to connect. We want to learn with you. We believe in community. We believe in you.
But [Insert Your Excuse Here]
I’ve heard a lot of reasons why people don’t attend Meetups. In the last 13 months, I’ve made it a priority. There is absolutely no way I would have mentally survived living alone and working alone without it.
I’d like to challenge you to attend at least three consecutive meetings. Every Meetup is different. Some cities break it down by design and dev or beginner and advanced. Even if it’s too advanced, go anyway.
If there’s a WordCamp within driving distance, go to that, too. I promise you will not be disappointed.
If there’s no Meetup, think about staring one. WordPress Foundation has tons of info on their Meetup Program on their Community Page.
Your Action Items:
- Find a WordPress Meetup
- Join the Meetup.com page.
- Fill out your Meetup profile and use a current Profile Picture.
- Write a comment on Meetup that you’re going and it’s your first time. People will greet you.
- Put it in your calendar.
- Treat it as important as a client meeting.
- Yes, put it in your workflow.
- Bring a smile.
- Introduce yourself.
- Bring a WordPress Question.
- Be open to sharing your latest challenge or victory.
- Bonus points for going out afterward if they all go.
- Ask people about themselves.
- Did I say smile?
- Make friends.
- Take selfies.
- Go again next month.
- Go to the local WordCamp!