"Instameetphoenix" creates instant connections

Photo courtesy of Jessica Jaskiewicz. Autumn Matney (@autumndmatney) of The Letter House(@theletterhouse) creating the photo backdrop for the Phoenix Instameetup. Photo courtesy of Jessica Jaskiewicz.

It’s a warm Wednesday night as people slip in to SoZo Coffeehouse. They keep their phone in hand as they head over to a group huddled at one end of the local coffee shop. Each person’s eyes light up with familiarity as they greet each other. They marvel over the hand-crafted chalkboard wall that uses Arizona cities to make up an outline of the state. After a while the group begins posing for pictures in front of the wall. They laugh and joke around as they each glance down at one another’s phone screens. It’s not long before the conversations on photo techniques begin. The feeling of familiarity increases as everyone’s words topple over one another. It’s hard to believe most of the people in the room met in person for the first time tonight.

Architecture and graphic information technology sophomore Jessica Jaskiewicz was enthused by the positive response received for Instameetpoenix’s second Instagram meetup on Aug. 27.

“Instagram can be kind of impersonal,” Jaskiewicz says. “To be able to meet the people that you actually follow is kind of a cool thing.”

Jaskiewicz got her inspiration for the SoZo Coffeehouse meetup from attending Instameetphoenix’s first Instagram meetup in July. Ryan Cordwell is the creative director for Royal and Design, a visual media firm in Phoenix. Cordwell was the Instagram user to coordinate the first meetup.


Jessica Jaskiewicz and co-host Ryan Cordwell  Photo courtesy of @ryannealcordwell on Instagram. Jessica Jaskiewicz and co-host Ryan Cordwell launched the Phoenix Instameetup campaign. Photo courtesy of @jessicajaski on Instagram.

“About three months ago I received one of the community kits they (Instagram) had been sending out to people they thought were prominent leaders in their areas,” Cordwell says. “It was sort of a thank you note and a campaign initiative. That’s when they launched the hashtag 'communityfirst.'”

“Communityfirst” is used all over the world by Instagram users to foster a community. Activities such as "Instameetups" have been occurring for years as a way for users to meet one another in person.

“The idea is to get together with people that you probably follow in your area that you would otherwise not have the opportunity to meet,” Cordwell says.

Past Instameetups have typically been held at beaches or state parks. The location was often free and provided photogenic scenery for users to take photos. However the Instameetphoenix’s meetups cater to different qualities.

“What I wanted to do with Instameetphoenix is create a comfortable environment in which everyone who was within it was on the same level of vulnerability,” Cordwell says. “We all operate very independently of one another. I wanted to create something that sort of broke down those walls.”

Instameetphoenix meetups are typically held at local businesses and involve multiple members of the community. The meetups often include local musicians to help create a comfortable space for users to interact.

“I’ve been to other Instameets and we had to go outside and it was super hot because we were going to different places in the city to take photos,” Instagram user Paige Poppe says. “So it was nice to have a location right there.”

Instameetphoenix’s ultimate goal is to host a meetup once a month. However, Cordwell found his schedule packed for August. When Jaskiewicz approached him about organizing a second meetup, he was more than happy to help her out with the logistics of the event. The two collaborated on the hashtag and overall theme for the evening. Jaskiewicz collaborated with local businesses such as the Letterhouse, a local letter and branding business.

“She created another very successful night and reinstated that kind of different take on what an instameet could be,” Cordwell says. “I think people are really starting to appreciate that.”

As the amount of users on Instagram begin to grow, users such as Jaskiewicz are realizing the power this social media site provides.

“For myself, as a member of the community, I hope that it becomes larger so we can have bigger meetups to see a bigger variation of different people,” Jaskiewicz says.

Today, more and more businesses are creating accounts and connecting with users on a platform that becomes much more personal.

“People willingly follow or unfollow people,” Jaskiewicz says. “If you chose to follow a business you’re voluntarily taking part in their advertisement. They get to go ahead and post these pictures and you’re voluntarily looking at them because you’re following them.”

Many of the users who attend the meetups are aware of the growing advantages to using social media for local businesses as well. Blogging, freelance writing and freelance photography have developed into full-time jobs for a number of Instagram users, including a few from Arizona.

“As a freelance writer and photographer it’s important to remember social media is just another medium of our artwork, of our craft,” Instagram user Diamond Troutman says.

Instameetphoenix hopes to collaborate with similar accounts based in Arizona and bridge the gap between each account to create bigger and better meetups. Jaskiewicz and Cordwell are hoping meetups, such as the ones they’ve arranged, will create a tight-knit Instagram community here in Arizona much as it has across the world.

Reach the writer at mchavan1@asu.edu or via Twitter @manalichavan72.

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