If you’re looking for a hand-written love letter, visit Craigslist. If you’re looking for raunchy pick-up lines, enter the modern-day dating scene.
“I don’t look like a supermodel,” she said. “I’m not shockingly beautiful.”
But in mid-January, she unknowingly nabbed someone’s attention on Craigslist Philadelphia’s Missed Connection section, a feature of the popular site for online classifieds that allows anyone with Internet access to post a romantic message in hopes of a particular person – usually whom the poster met in passing – seeing it. Usually, the posts are subtle, with enough detail for the receiver to recognize him- or herself as the subject – like this one, titled “Flight from Orlando,” posted Jan. 9:
“You’re the nice girl that goes to temple. Sat next to me on the plane ride. I’m the idiot that let you go. I would like a second chance[.]”
The Missed Connection posted three weeks ago for Cocoran-Sayers isn’t so cunning. In fact, the Jan. 19 post has Cocoran-Sayers’ name all over it – literally. Titled “tessa cocoran-sayers,” it reads: “i don’t think your beautiful i think your beyond it.”
But she’s no stranger to the anonymous form of flattery.
“It’s not the first [Craigslist Missed Connection] I’ve gotten. It’s kind of [become] a joke amongst my friends,” said Cocoran-Sayers, who said there have been five made about her in the last three years. Cocoran-Sayers, who is in a relationship, said she never responds but, in general, thinks the posts are “really nice,” adding that they can make “a really big city feel like a small town.”
Cocoran-Sayers does have a point – who doesn’t want to hear she’s “beyond beautiful”? – but some things, like shout-outs that can only be made anonymously on the Internet, are better left unsaid.
Take this 33-year-old Missed Connections user, who sought out female companionship under the post “Temple, totally PINK hair, sitting on grass” on Jan. 21:
“[Y]ou were pretty loud talking to your friend on the grass near the bell tower,” the post reads, “but you were SO hot. Loved the hair. maybe we can fool around discreetly.”
If I were the pink-haired lady being pursued by this creep, I’d politely respond with a ‘maybe not.’ I know it’s not the 1800s, but a little courtship – hell, even a smidgen of face-to-face communication – before the “fooling around” would be nice.
Other posts are less offensive and, frankly, break my heart: “[S]aw you sitting in your car in front of rock hall wed afternoon – girl (gf?) in the passenger seat talking at you – i’ve never seen such sad eyes. what was she saying that made you feel so bad?”
Or, better yet, take me back to ninth grade, when my band-geek crush would meet me outside fourth-period Physics: “[I liked looking up and seeing you there] …. a couple days ago, outside AH. And then talking with you for a couple blocks while you coasted. : ) You give me butterflies.”
But as I read the posts, I can’t help but think most Craigslist users are wasting time typing out declarations of love – albeit creepy and often based on sexual desires alone – that fall on deaf ears. So, why even bother?
Dr. Andrew Karpinski, an associate professor of psychology, said Missed Connections posts show how powerful “implicit social norms” can be.
“For example,” Karpinski said in an e-mail, “imagine you see someone you like on the subway … the implicit norm is that you keep to yourself, or at least to the people you know. Social norms are so powerful that people often feel that they cannot violate them, even if they want to.”
Another component to explaining the popularity of Missed Connections postings is their low cost, assistant professor of psychology Dr. Kareem Johnson said. But he’s not talking about the fact that Craigslist is free of charge.
“[Posters can assume,] ‘If [the intended recipient] didn’t respond, they didn’t see it,’” he said, explaining that, to a poster, the lack of a response doesn’t exactly equal rejection.
“You can give yourself any reason for why the person didn’t respond,” added Johnson, who said he thinks Valentine’s Day could cause a rise in the number of Missed Connections postings made.
But this Valentine’s Day, take a step back from the computer screen, and take a chance on that cutie sipping a café mocha and reading her Kindle in the coffee shop. Slip a love note in the bike spokes of the hottie who’s always locking up his Peugeot next to your Schwinn. If it turns out she or he is not actually on the market, so be it. It might cost you some pride or, at worst, a black eye from a jealous boyfriend or the stink eye from a jealous girlfriend.
If you let her go, it could be the connection of a lifetime you’re missing – or maybe just a few too many Walt Whits at the Draught Horse, followed by her confession that you look just a little too much like her kid brother for things to ever work out. Either way, you won’t find fate sitting at home on your Hewlett-Packards, praying for Cupid to draw back his bow.
Chelsea Calhoun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.