I love planning lunches for people I’m confident will like one another — and have the potential to become genuine friends. It’s been my favorite hobby for more than thirty years.
I typically send these potential friends out to yummy, inexpensive, ethnic restaurants together.
When COVID-19 arrived, I started asking myself, “how can I keep seeding friendships in a substantive way, online?”
The Trees is my answer.
How I figure out which people have the potential to become genuine friends.
I look for people who a) feel that laughing is one of life’s most important activities, and b) have matching senses of humor.
It’s the simple recipe my dad taught me and it rarely fails.
The concept of The Trees.
It’s very simple. The Trees is a collection of online discussion groups.
Each group is hand-filled, by me, with people who — you guessed it —
a) feel that laughing is one of life’s most important activities, and b) have matching senses of humor.
Groups live on Twist, a quieter, simpler alternative to Slack, the popular, mostly text-based communications platform.
Each member of The Trees belongs to a single group.
What group members do together.
It’s early and the groups are still small. But, so far, the members within each group are posting and discussing things they think are conversation-worthy — videos, articles, tweets, photographs, philosophical questions, quotations, you name it.
“Exactly what I was looking for.”
Retired Mom of Four Grown Daughters
There aren’t any.
Membership in The Trees is meant to be a benefit, not a burden. So I stress to every new member that they can participate as much or as little as they like.
Want to hang out on The Trees all day long? Great. Want to chime in with a comment every two weeks? That’s fine too.
What it costs.
If The Trees grows to the point where I need to hire administrative staff to help me keep things from flying off the rails (I’m a horrifically bad administrator), I may start to think about a monthly membership fee.
Either way, there will never be ads. And I will never sell member data.
Why I love doing this.
Again, I have to credit my dad.
He organized an informal conversation club for people with matching senses of humor, filled with fellow NBC News journalists and Columbia Journalism School alums. They met at New York City Chinese restaurants, like clockwork, every week, for forty years.
On occasion, he’d bring me along. It had an outsize impact on me.
I started following my dad’s lead in the fall of 1986, when I arrived at college for freshman orientation and realized that I was one of 2,000 suddenly friendless kids.
Want to help spread the word?
It’d be incredibly helpful to me. Instagram ads are expensive and not nearly as effective as a tweet from a real person.
Want to participate?
The button below will take you to a reasonably enjoyable, 4-minute questionnaire.
Frequently asked questions.
Come on, why are you really doing this? What’s your secret motive? Are you an axe murderer?
I get a huge ego jolt from connecting people who enjoy talking to one another. And this is the kind of organization I’ve always wished I could be a member of.
It’s that simple, really.
But I’m also excited that running The Trees could be how I make a living in the future.
And I have some big dreams about gathering the members within each groups in cities around the world.
What does it mean for people to 'have matching senses of humor'?
To me, it means a) agreeing on what’s funny, b) agreeing on what isn’t funny that nearly everybody else on the planet thinks is hysterical, and c) having similar feelings about the proper role of humor in stressful situations.
How do you figure out what sense of humor each new member has?
It starts with the questionnaire (use the “Apply” button above).
Filling it out will give me a good feel for whether I have a group (or a plan to create one) filled with members whose senses of humor match yours.
If I do, I’ll invite you to talk with me over the phone, so I can get a more detailed sense of you, and answer your questions.
Why do you call the project 'The Trees'?
It’s dedicated to my childhood trumpet teacher, Edward Treutel.
Mr. Treutel had an enormously curious nature, a great laugh, and a big, beautiful sugar maple tree at the curb in front of his studio. I waited under it for my mom to pick me up after each lesson, every Tuesday from 1974 through 1986. Whenever I think of him, I think of beautiful trees. And vice versa.
Even though he died just when the Internet was budding, I know he would have loved this. And he’d have been first on my invitee list.
Are you going to sell my data? Will I ever have to look at ads?
I will never sell your data. And you will never have to look at ads.
Who are you? What do you do for a living?
Can I send someone I think might be interested your way?
Can I apply, in advance, for your future, open administrative position?
Who created the logo?
Me, sort of. It’s a reworked stock vector graphic.