Startups put 'social' back in networking Los Angeles Times Copyright 2012 Los Angeles Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Published 8:38 p.m., Sunday, November 18, 2012 [...] in a retro twist to social networking, a wave of Web startups are encouraging users to get off their couches, away from their smartphones and tablets, and back into the real world. Hybrid social networks are connecting strangers with similar interests online, then directing them to meet in person for dinners, bar-hopping, bowling or biking excursions. Unlike dating or networking sites, these startups are focused simply on helping users make new friends and hang out face to face. Before meeting face to face, people can post questions, offer parking or traffic tips and suggest topics to talk about. Since February, Self has attended nine Grubwithus meals and said he has made a handful of friends from the dinners. Grubwithus Chief Executive Eddy Lu said users like such online-offline sites because they provide a safe way for people to meet - members identify themselves through their profiles and get the chance to communicate with one another online before meeting at a business or other public place.