Written by JONATHAN VERN MCGILL
'Subreddit' aims to get Calgarians off the computer and start socializing in the community
When Josh Innes boarded the nine-hour flight from London, England, to come work in Calgary, he thought it might take months to build relationships and meet people in a new city.
But a few days after landing in town, Innes joined the Calgary Social Club, an online group that plans various spontaneous events in the city.
"I went to my first event — a wing night at Joyce on 4th — and within two minutes there is this guy talking to me," Innes says.
"The club is truly amazing. It saved me from knowing nobody and having to go out to try to meet people in bars and has turned into something that I truly feel a part of."
The online club branched out from a Calgary "subreddit" — a type of online forum — on the community-focused content aggregator, Reddit.com. The Calgary Social Club was created in mid-January. Reddit.com has more than 67,000 "subreddits" that users may subscribe and contribute to.
There is a diverse field of topics, including "subreddits" for animal photos, video games, global politics and bizarre people, places and things that inhabit our planet.
The Calgary Social Club's online forum keeps users — known as "redditors" — updated on where and when an event is taking place, and encourages them to attend as well as create their own events in Calgary.
"It's brilliant for me because I don't know anything about this city," Innes says. "But there are posts saying, 'We've got this new science centre, or this observatory,' and I can just go to these events."
In England Innes was active in an already well-established "subreddit", the London Social Club, which reached 2,000 members this February. He says that no matter the day or time, there always seemed to be an event somewhere in London.
Innes now acts as a moderator for the "subreddit", which involves running and customizing the forum and organizing the group's calendar of events.
Move over, Breakfast Club
The Calgary Social Club was created by Spenser Jones and Jennifer Clarke, following a house party that Clarke hosted in January.
"Some Edmonton people came down to the party, and near the end, we all started chatting about how they found us," Jones says. "It ended up they were hanging out multiple times every week and having a blast as a huge group with their own social club."
Jones had just joined the Calgary "subreddit".
"I had just gotten into the Calgary "subreddit," but there wasn't much happening," Jones says. "There was an occasional meet-up, but that's it. So Jennifer and I said, 'Let's do it,' and we created the Calgary Social Club."
Jones and Clarke created the "subreddit" the morning after the party, and less than a month later, the group has grown to over 240 members.
"There was far more interest than I had expected," Jones says. "The first few events were Jennifer and myself posting, but just this past week there have been six or seven events and I haven't planned any of them."
Clarke says the group is about getting people out of the house and meeting people with the same interests. She says it might be difficult to meet people if a person is on the socially-awkward side, but the Calgary Social Club is open and supportive of anyone.
At one recent gathering for wings at Limericks pub, the group was full of guys and girls who said they are "socially awkward," but everyone was laughing and smiling and bouncing from one conversation to the next. It looked as though they had been friends for a lifetime.
With the variety of events held, there are plenty of opportunities to meet people with similar taste in music, movies, activities, sports, or whatever else they might enjoy. Past events have included board game nights, a "Lord of the Rings" movie marathon, paintball in Cochrane and last-minute dinner meet-ups.
Clarke says that the group has started off well and she thinks it will only continue growing.
"I really like these people, and I want them in my life."
Kyle Shewchuk, an information design student at Mount Royal University, is another "redditor" heavily involved with the social club. As an outgoing and friendly member of the group, Shewchuk jokes about how often he attends the gatherings.
"They try to stop me from coming, but I just keep finding out where it is," Shewchuk jokes as the group joins him for a laugh. "People get together. Drink. Good times [are] had."
The Calgary Social Club is a group for all ages and can be visited at www.reddit.com/r/CalgarySocialClub.