Questionable Activity on Portland’s Craigslist Missed Connections Page

This is a screen grab of a short post that was published to the Craigslist missed connections page by an anonymous writer. The map is included in the post to help posters indicate the general location of their missed connection. Image via Craigslist.

Do you have that strange and specific corner of the internet that you regularly check up on? For me, that corner is the Craigslist ‘missed connections’ page, where I feel like I can observe mankind’s strangest behaviors and emotional processes. 

If you don’t know what the missed connections page is or you’ve never been on it, a missed connection is a type of public interaction where two people share a moment but don’t exchange information (on accident, or because they are too nervous), so they make a post to the page with a description of the interaction to see if the other person will respond. If the two people do end up finding each other, that makes it a found connection. The Craigslist page is meant to facilitate these (hopefully) found connections, but that is not why I frequent it. The page is very often misused by its patrons, for dramatic open letters to exes, public observations, and frequently one-sided declarations of love to complete and total strangers. 

Reading through the posts on the page, I feel as if I’m peering into the minds of the posters. The things people feel comfortable saying under the cover of anonymity are truly strange. One of the most popular types of posts I encounter are from random men posting about women who they simply saw in public, trying to… attract a date? I’m not quite sure sometimes. 

One man writes “[y]ou looked maybe Pacific Islander or Hawaiian. I saw you on the hygiene aisle looking cute in your Jean [sic] shorts… I was the white guy who was too indecisive to say hi,” as if this woman in the hygiene aisle was interested in him, let alone searching for him on the missed connections page. The author of this post also capitalized the word ‘jean’ for some reason. It’s a no from me, sir. 

Another says, “[I] was at [S]hell today around 4, you had a short top on and leggings. With some guy crossing the street, holy [expletive] you are sexy. I was at the gas pump.” Um, absolutely not. I would pay to know what goes on in these people’s heads when they write and post things like this, but I guess we’ll never know. 

There is a massive volume of men making posts that essentially read “I saw you on the sidewalk while I was driving. You had boobs. Find me.” When I encounter these, I really do wonder if this approach has ever worked for one of these people. I attempted to reach out to several posters to get the inside scoop on their motivations and desires for a potential outcome, but most of them did not respond to me even though I promised them anonymity. I can say that I understand, I also would not respond to a request to interview if I had posted something private and mildly questionable online for all the missed connections page to see. I am a bit relieved that no one got back to me; I would struggle with what to ask them. What did you expect to happen after posting such a thing? Do you enjoy making even the people reading your words uncomfortable? 

Aside from these types of posts, the main misuse of the missed connections page that I have observed is writing open letters of a sort of melancholy nature, posted to the general public and often targeted at a specific person. My hypothesis is people post this kind of message because it is anonymous, and they feel the need to express whatever they are saying in their posts but are too scared to send the message to the person it is directed at. One post reads, “[y]ou always appreciated my kind of crazy… just reach out already.” Excellent sell, in my opinion. Someone else writes, “[t]rying to distance myself from you, but it’s really hard. I miss you all the time. Tell me you miss me too.” These types of posts are like public diary entries, the posters using the page as a personal blog of some sort. 

Of course, there will always be those who use the missed connections page as Craigslist creator, Craig Newmark intended it to be used, and for that, I am grateful. As much as I enjoy observing the disturbing human condition displayed in some of these posts, a sweet meet-cute reunited by the page is nice to see as well, and they prove that the page is, in some ways, being used properly. If you choose to, use the page with caution; these anonymous writers are strangers! Stranger danger! Just be careful out there, dear reader. 

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