Should I file a complaint against Meetup?
March 21, 2014 10:05 AM   Subscribe

There was a misunderstanding in a meetup group and the organizer publicly humiliated me and responded in a hostile manner. Should I file a complaint with Meetup or just forget about it?

I was in a writing meetup for several months. During this time I dated someone from the group for a few weeks, but it ended when another woman in the group went around and told people she was afraid of me because I reminded her of her abusive ex. I want to stress that I never threatened or acted in an inappropriate manner, but somehow stumbled on a trigger that set her off. At that point I emailed the organizer to tell them what happened and avoided her from that point on (which I later found out was never received or was ignored).

The woman I was dating also had a history with abuse and hearing this from another woman set off a trigger with her as well. She stopped seeing me and treated me very oddly for a while until I asked that we not have any contact anymore as it would be better for both of us. We never had a fight or any kind of serious disagreement, but any appearance of danger was enough to scare off. As someone who also deals with emotional problems and spoke to his therapist about this, I understood where she was coming from and let it go.

In this writing group we wrote short pieces and shared them with one another. I tried to write a variety of pieces about many different characters and issues as a way of challenging myself. Some people were weirded out, but I tended to avoid anything graphic or offensive. One day I wrote a fictional story about two crazy people who are dating. It was overblown to the point of being ridiculous and most people laughed, and included details about mental health that I picked up from books and movies. The woman I had dated assumed I was writing about her despite there being no details about her in the story and told other people who all complained to the organizer.

The organizer's response was wait until the next event to call me aside where security stood by and a large woman threatened me while the organizer stumbled through her reasons for kicking me out. The organizer clearly didn't think this through; she never contacted me prior, I was never given a chance to give my side or explain, and the whole thing was done while the group was just a few feet away. I remained as calm as I could and kept asking why I was never contacted or a discussion never happened, but was just told to "Get out" by the large woman and the organizer said I could be making it all up. Later, I emailed the organizer and said that the whole thing could have been settled privately, but never got a response. One other member told me he went to the organizer and said she could have handled it better, but everyone else seemed to want to mind her own business.

Had I been contacted prior to the event, I would have explained that the story was totally fictional, that the relationship was none of their business, but was completely outside of the group. If the decision was that I could not return, I would have complied. However, it was humiliating to be dragged out in front of everyone and treated like a deranged sociopath. Everyone looked at my like I was going to flip out and start beating on people any moment based on a complaint that I wrote about someone else in the group. I feel bad that things played out the way they did, that these two women had horrific experiences, but the response was so awful and helped no one.

Should I file a complaint with the Meetup site? Do I have any kind of weight behind this or is it just a waste of time?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What do you want them to do? Ban the group? Force them to let you back in? I'm not sure what your desired result is and I'm not sure Meetup (the site) can give it to you. I would let it go, personally.
posted by desjardins at 10:08 AM on March 21, 2014 [11 favorites]

I think -- based on the really limited information here -- that sharing that sort of narrative in that context was a lapse in judgment, and would assume that the organisers decided that was enough of a lapse to brand you as a weirdo/threat/whatever and boot you. I think you would only further embarrass yourself by making an issue of this.
posted by kmennie at 10:10 AM on March 21, 2014 [16 favorites]

The one sure way to make yourself look more like a deranged sociopath is to make a huge deal out of this. Just cut your losses, find a new group, and try to learn from this experience. I would recommend not writing about a crazy relationship and sharing it with people who know you recently broke up with a fellow member of the group, for example.
posted by something something at 10:11 AM on March 21, 2014 [49 favorites]

Meetup themselves aren't all that responsible for how the meeting organizers conduct things; they just offer the platform upon which the organizers can coordinate things. I don't think Meetup would be able to help you here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:12 AM on March 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Sounds like there's a lack of tact on both your side and the organizer's side. I doubt you'll get anywhere with Meetup.
posted by zsazsa at 10:15 AM on March 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

What would you want Meetup to do? Shut down the group? Sanction the organizer? Your goals should be clear before you contact Meetup.

Could any of this incident blow back on your professionally? In that case it may be worth contacting a few of the members to explain your side.

I think the incident could have been avoided or at least mitigated by giving the person you'd dated a heads-up and maybe a preview of the story - "hey, I wrote this crazy story and because the subject is a dating couple I just want to be really clear it has nothing to do with you at all".

All in all, given that two different people were triggered by your presence in the group, even though you personally were apparently innocent of any wrong-doing, I don't see how this story could have ended without drama, unless you'd left the group earlier. Sorry.
posted by vignettist at 10:15 AM on March 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

There is nothing you can do about this, just move on. This is a side effect of the victim-is-always-right mentality. A single complaint is sufficient evidence whether it is abuse, sexual assault, or anything of that sort. If you stay longer you may get some trumped up charges and be accused of god knows what...

Just move on.

Also double check that you really didn't do anything improper. I'm happy to assume you didn't, but if you did that's on you.
posted by jjmoney at 10:17 AM on March 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't complain to Meetup. Just start your own Writing Meetup group and invite the people you want (who were not at all involved in the situation) to join it.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:22 AM on March 21, 2014 [8 favorites]

What? No. Back away from the drama.

This is not a group you should desire to return to, let alone return to.

Group dynamics are always a crapshoot and in this my friend, you got the crap.

Find another group, preferably with people who are more hinged than these folks.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:24 AM on March 21, 2014 [11 favorites]

Meetup's terms of service make it clear that they are not responsible for this. Your only avenue for complaint might be with the owner or manager of the venue where the event occurred (it sounds like security of some sort and a "large woman" that might have been associated with the venue were involved). That said, is this *really* worth your time?
posted by Behemoth at 10:25 AM on March 21, 2014

Meetup basically just facilitate friends, new and old, to meetup for certain purposes. You got kicked out of a friend group, which happens all the time to all different sorts of people. Just find another group or form your own.

In my city, there are approximately 20 writing groups, for all sorts of writing. They meet at different times, in different locations, have different focuses, and do different things.
posted by ethidda at 10:35 AM on March 21, 2014

From what I understand you can rate the meet up and post your problems. However it would be publicly available on google. It could possibly hurt their rankings a little bit.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:57 AM on March 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Meetup can't protect you from weirdos. Indeed, because of its open format, it can actively enable weirdos to participate where other, closed, social groups won't allow them. There's no guarantee that you will have a good time, click with others or even be treated with respect (being an asshole is not illegal). Move on and next time be on the lookout for warning signs of unbalanced people.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 11:03 AM on March 21, 2014 [2 favorites] isn't responsible for the actions of the organizer. The organizer doesn't report to Meetup and the organizer has the discretion to remove - rightly or wrongly - people from the group, so complaining to won't get you anywhere.

Leave a negative feedback in the group. You should be able to rate the event and the group, I believe? The organizer won't be able to delete it and won't take it off for them, either (unless you use offensive language, etc).
posted by vivzan at 11:06 AM on March 21, 2014

If I understand correctly: your ex had a vulnerability. You broke up but remained part of the same writing group despite going no-contact. You then wrote a story about a character with the same vulnerability as your ex, which apparently poked fun at that character. It's not hard for me to imagine your ex being very hurt and perhaps alarmed, and complaining to the organizer and asking for you to be removed from the group.

It's really hard for me to see a way for you to win here, whatever winning might mean for you. Taking the stance that you were wronged ... well, it won't put you in a very good light with anyone involved - even though the organizer did handle it poorly.

Let it go, find another writing group, be more aware of your audience next time.
posted by bunderful at 11:24 AM on March 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

complaining to meetup is a waste of time. you're a writer, that's your ace, so write a story about these folks. i'm usually polite to writers, because i know in the back of my head that their next bestseller could be about "bruce" the retired lawyer with a passion for sniffing dog farts.
posted by bruce at 11:35 AM on March 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

From what I understand you can rate the meet up and post your problems. However it would be publicly available on google. It could possibly hurt their rankings a little bit.

Leave a negative feedback in the group. You should be able to rate the event and the group, I believe? The organizer won't be able to delete it and won't take it off for them, either (unless you use offensive language, etc).

You can do this but be aware that the organizer does have the ability to remove specific reviews and comments. What they can't remove are ratings for individual meetups (the stars); those are done anonymously and aggregated so one bad rating will only appear as part of an overall average. It would be trivial for the members to game that number in order to counter your negative rating.

However poorly different people (including yourself, IMO) may have conducted themselves in this matter, the likelihood of this being "fixed" by you getting Meetup to punish the group's organizer are probably slim to none. And as others have mentioned above, the Meetup organization isn't going to get involved unless there is evidence of something illegal going on and even then they won't care unless it's something they could be liable for.

There are likely other writing groups in your area, or you can easily start your own group if you're willing to take on the cost and responsibility of being an organizer. You would probably do well to move on from this situation and to another group. You would also probably do well to be mindful of not creating this kind of in drama in a potentially emotional group setting.

Later, I emailed the organizer and said that the whole thing could have been settled privately, but never got a response.

I imagine the organizer felt it was best to keep things out of writing, perhaps since the situation partially originated from a passive/aggressively harmful (in my opinion) use of writing.
posted by fuse theorem at 12:01 PM on March 21, 2014

Dude, just let it go. You're not going to have a constructive relationship with this group of people.
posted by Fister Roboto at 1:27 PM on March 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Okay... I hate to say this because you've been treated very poorly by the writing group and I don't want to victim-blame. But it sounds like you've been scapegoated by a toxic group of people, AND you might be unconsciously behaving in ways that are freaking women out. I believe you when you say that you did not intend your story about a "crazy couple" to be a passive aggressive attack on your ex, but that's honestly the most likely explanation for someone reading that kind of story at a group meetup, and if you don't get what a serious social misstep that was and how inevitably it would be perceived as hostile, I'm wondering if there might be other things that you're doing that are sending similar signals. The meetup organizer's refusal to engage or mediate with you directly is incredibly unprofessional on her part. But what you're reporting is that a bunch of women are afraid of you-- the first one, the woman you dated, and then the group organizer, who felt the need to bring physically imposing backup when kicking you out. I don't know the race/class/whatever demographics of you and the group; it's possible they were all acting on a prejudice and you did nothing whatsoever. Or that you accidentally stumbled upon one of those groups that' is a minefield of generating drama. But you might be on the watch for similar things happening at the next writer's group you join (you are a writer) to see if there's something more going on here that you can work on.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 2:48 PM on March 21, 2014 [17 favorites]

I have a fair bit of experience as an organizer and a member of meetup, including both filing complaints and having been complained about. Meetup will not care. They are a platform that allows people to organize meetups, but it is their policy that what happens at those meetups is up to the organizers of those meetups, and that membership in the group is entirely at the convenience of the person who owns the group.

Move on, find a different writers group to hang out with. Meetup will very explicitly not be on your side in this issue.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:12 PM on March 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had the same reaction to your story as moonlight on vermont did - specifically, the fact that the 'misunderstanding' happened with 3 different women in the group suggests that you might really have behaved more concerningly or done something more offensive than you believed that you did. I think it's good that you talked to your therapist about the fact that you triggered the other two women, and be sure they know the details of your story as well - perhaps the therapist could give you a more impartial opinion about whether your story comes off as humor or… not.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:27 PM on March 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

As others have mentioned it's weird that 3 different women had the same reaction towards you. You may have been acting a certain way without your knowledge... Although I have been to some meetup groups based on therapy and I have seen some real drama occur with some nut jobs. Once during a Grief Meetup group where a bunch of people were there to discuss getting over loss of all sorts of things... an older woman just mentioned the grief of her divorce and one of the men stood up and yelled at her "How dare you compare your divorce to the death of my wife!" The woman tried to make it clear that she wasn't trying to make comparisons, but he just kept ranting. Believe it or not the organizer ended up kicking the WOMAN out of the meeting for upsetting this man. I couldn't believe it.

I don't go to therapy based meet-ups anymore. The organizers are often just as deranged as some of the participants.

If I were you I would complain to meetup even though they might not do anything about it. It seems the organizer was trying to look like a hero by making it seem like she told you not to come and you refused which made her ready with security. You have proof that she did not in fact inform you since there is no email or phone call on record. If you HAD been an abusive person then by not asking you to not show and by instead choosing to cause this huge scene with security the organizer would have been compromising the safety of the other members.
posted by manderin at 10:00 PM on March 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do not hang around this pack of shit stirrers. They sound like antagonists from King of the Hill. Sucks that they decided to humiliate you, reality TV-style, but don't turn down the opportunity to have nothing to do with them.
posted by ignignokt at 6:49 AM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

What outcome do you want? The group is not going to change their mind and side with you here. The fact that you acting so aggressively defensive about this really makes one wonder if they had a legitimate reason for wanting you gone.

We have only heard one side of the story here (your side) and honestly your behavior sounds creepy. From this limited perspective, it sounds like you are painting yourself a victim when you were the one who made some questionable choices.
posted by seesom at 12:11 PM on March 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

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