The entertaining virtual meetups

2020-08-07 @Blog

I’ve occasionally connected to online meetup groups. Mostly via Zoom. Yesterday through something called Google Meetups. Sometimes Hangouts.

What’s the difference between these two Google products? Whatever. Rhetorical question.

However, it’s an interesting phenomenon, the ease of connecting to all these virtual sessions that presently exist in frightening abundance.

One need merely peruse Meetup (my preferred), Internations, or likely a dozen alternative platforms to assert the transition of previously physical groups to a virtual format. The trend, mind you, follows for the ‘time being’, whatever that be.

It is something … with how little effort I can navigate to a fairly random meetup somewhere at Leeds, Capetown or, I don’t know, Bag End. Better phrased: seamlessly pop-in at a meetup corresponding to a physical gathering at one of these fine towns, and proceed to exchange book recommendations.

Fun, I guess. In this manner I’ve also crept my way into Shakespeare reading groups, all previously conducted in their respective physical cafés nowhere in the vicinity of my whereabouts.

But now I’ve the means to recite favourite verse, at a distance, with a bunch of eloquently expressed avatars, whom I may choose to expose across tiny feeds of a large gallery, or hide in lieu of the active speaker view.

It’s a matter of taste. Well, that, and of my overheating CPU that struggles to render all this incoherent audio/video parley.

Then that forsaken wireless connection drops. It always does. And that’s a problem for structured readings and presentations. So I’ve resorted to stretch a very long Ethernet wire from the router. Anyway.

All these meetup platforms well facilitate such turn-based role playing: one speaker at a time, one spotlight, and many listeners who hopefully mute their microphones, lest we incorporate unintended village livestock into the soundtrack.

Poetry reading is perfectly convenient for the format. As are comedy Open-Mics. Or the virtual Toastmaster groups that I’ve abused for a time too long.

Now take anything social and unstructured and it becomes quiet a mess. You cannot hold multiple parallel conversations. Cannot divide into smaller groups, not in any way that’s natural (as if any of this were natural). Cannot form conceited isolated cliques that we’ve always abhorred. What we take for granted …

Here we commit to one conversation, one focal point. You either play the game, or become a shadow, in the way of passive listening that desperately tries your patience. Not much room for anarchy under such constraints.

But we interrupt each other aplenty alright. And then apologetically back off with a suspenseful delay. Who shall be the first to proceed? You go … No, no, you first.

The humbleness of it doesn’t fail to perturb me.

Meanwhile you ruminate; why you’ve not yet abandoned this discourse. I suppose that’s one of the perks. You can unceremoniously bail out, all etiquette aside.

How tempting is that ‘leave meeting’ function. No need to cowardly sneak out of cafés … although that too has rarely proved challenging.

In retrospect, saying an abrupt adieu has never proven a too exhausting of an endeavour. In the virtual case, it’s but a matter of dropping a few words in the chat box and voilà.

So much for those language exchange meetups that I’ve frequented for longer than I care to remember. I can only suppose them most effective under the freedom to form and dismantle those conceited little side groups.

We’ll need an authentic VR setup with adaptive audio to address the said issue. Solutions have presented themselves at conventions for years, but I guess we’ve still to assert mass usage.

That aside, while these virtual meetup opportunities hover endlessly, I’ve needs to draw the line.

You can lose yourself in the mere searches, scheduling and updates. No different I suppose from physical groups that you’ve managed via online platforms.

I could list a dozen other gripes along with as many perks concerning virtual meetups. But I’ve covered the most concerning.

It’s not my preferred way to gather. I prefer the physical. By far.

But on the upside, the format has greatly simplified the question of fashion and personal hygiene. Now we need but appear to be well groomed. And mainly from the waist up.

Questions, comments? Connect.