For the past 2 or 3 years - forget how long - I've been going to a monthly atheist meetup group in my town. Mostly it's been great. I would spend the entire month looking forward to it, and when I could not go, it felt like withdrawal. Some of the locations were a 45 min drive, and even that didn't stop me.
Mostly we have been in a few local restaurants. It changed recently because the meeting place went under. Now at a pizza place, which is fine. I don't know how many people go - 10, 15 , 20 maybe.
Here's what happened. What I like the most, other than the pure letting down barriers because of being around other atheists, is the chaos. Multiple conversations going on at the same time. I could drift from one to another. I felt like I was making friends and getting to know people. Even though it's been around a big table, or tables arranged as a big table, it breaks into various conversations, with different people talking about their experiences, or their ideas, or whatever.
During the past 3 meetings, one member has wanted to reign in the chaos. He wants one person speaking at a time, with the rest of us listening. I spoke up against that, because (a) I don't like speaking to a large group and (b) the richness of multiple conversations would be replaced by serial pronouncements, and (c) it's too formalized for me, after working all week in a structured formal setting. At the last meeting, it was decided to split the meeting, half in 2 groups of discussions, and half in one big group. At the time, that seemed like a compromise. Then they said we would divide into two big tables, then they would merge into one big table. So the 2 tables, I suppose, would still have limitations on discussion.
I understand change, and I'm fine with it. There is nothing in the universe that doesn't change. If that's what they want, go for it. But it's not for me. I've been thinking about this for almost a month. It's starting to feel like a "meeting" instead of a social gathering. A "support group" or even a "committee meeting". With more rules, and the "one person speaks at a time" makes it sound like a productivity meeting at work. Arrggh. Vomit time. Just what I don't need on the weekend.
So I've quietly quit the group. It was my only reason to be on Meetup.com - the various notices from meetup were starting to annoy me too. I'm in the process of changing that email address for unrelated reasons (Yahoo is really irritating these days), and I thought, why bother changing my meetup account? I'll just delete it. So I did. Reading this makes me sound like a curmudgeon. Maybe I am.
It's too bad. I wish them all well. I'm not angry or upset at anyone. Maybe frustrated at the guy, who kept stopping the meeting and insisting that we have one conversation at a time, but not really much. He seemed nice too. Change happens. I sincerely like most of the people there. In fact, I offered to host the meeting at my house, but it was felt that would change the meeting dynamic. I can't handle the idea of an organized "meeting". In fact, I've been dreading the next one. So it's time to step aside.
So it goes. Peace and good will to everyone, it's been a nice time.