Sunday, February 6, 2011

THE LIFE: Social networking in the 21st century

Edison Farrow has what many may consider a dream job.

At least three nights a week -- and a couple of extra nights a month -- he hosts a party for gay Miami at some of the city's most glamorous and trendy hot spots. There's The Simple Life each Thursday, Hype on Fridays, Jump every Sunday, Martini Tuesdays once a month, and a new monthly event called Plastic is in the works.


Edison Farrow, SoBeSocial Club founder

But Edison's duties go beyond hosting. As the one-man force behind SoBeSocial Club (http://www.sobesocialclub.com/),  it's also his business to organize and promote the events. His duties include designing the fliers and website, and booking venues and performers.

It all started 10 years ago with Martini Tuesdays, a weekly gathering of a few friends at that time.

"It was never meant to be an 'event' and I never planned to become a promoter," Edison said. "I called 10 friends with the idea to meet at a chic hotel bar once a week. It grew and grew and by the fifth week, seven people were attending."

Today,depending on the event and venue, attendance ranges from 200 to 1,000 people, he said.

Perhaps the surge in the events' popularity reflects gay men's desire for places and social situations where they can make real connections. With their ear-splitting music, poor lighting and distractions galore, bars have lost their appeal for many gay men looking for more than a hookup.

"When Martini Tuesdays started, it just blew up," Edison said. "It was obviously filling a social need that was missing in the community. This was in 2001, before the gay lounge era, when things were more dark and late night."

Bar culture in general has changed, according to an article I read a few years back. At one time bars were the places gay men went to meet new people. That changed with the advent of Internet dating. The bars became hangouts for groups of friends -- and bachelorette parties -- out to drink and dance but not necessarily to meet people. Why make the effort to overcome the sensory challenges of a bar to make a connection when you can browse for men in front of a computer in the comfort of your home?

Despite the dominance of matchmaking and cruising online, SoBeSocial Club and other clubs show there's still a demand for social outings.

"That is a lonely world," Edison said about the Internet. "There is something more fulfilling about being around people and meeting face to face and interacting."

Mark Jones, a co-host and promoter of Tuesday Nite Supper Club (http://tuesdaynite.wordpress.com/) in Palm Springs, Ca., agrees.

"It's one of those things where there's a need for camaraderie," Mark said.

The Supper Club's appeal is that it places the guests on a level playing field and there's no stigma attached to it, he said. Guests know they're meeting other residents of their community in a safe environment, unlike the Internet where what you see may not be what actually shows up at your door.

Started about six years ago, the Supper Club consists of cocktails and dinner each Tuesday at a restaurant, bar or other venue. Out of the 570 men on the guest list, an average of 125 show up for cocktails and 75 to 80 stay for dinner.

About 40 percent of the guests are single guys looking for a social outlet and a date, Mark said.
The majority of the men who attend Edison's events are also single and looking.

"I get a wide range of people, from young to old, and all types of professions," Edison said. "At the start of Martini Tuesdays, it attracted many professionals that did not have a place to go."

A decade later, they have many more options in part because of Edison's talent for seeing a need in South Florida and identifying creative ways to fill it. Other communities have followed suit, evidenced by the calls for advice Edison said he gets from all over the world.

For Mark, who shares hosting duties with Rich Kozar, the Supper Club allowed him to quickly expand his social and professional worlds after moving to Palm Springs.

"I got to meet a whole lot of people in a short amount of time," he said. "I got to market myself and my business (http://www.yourstewards.com/)."

In addition to planning the club nights, Mark now also organizes fundraisers to benefit nonprofit organizations and events that raise awareness about small businesses.

As different as the events are, Mark has noticed one constant among them: "People want to get together."

1 comment:

  1. Birds of a feather, as they say. Great article, Will.

    ReplyDelete