Aboard public transport, my go-to facial expression is a stern, furrowed brow. Not that any of this has stopped me from posting missed connections myself. That there exists a digital town square where lonely hearts can declare their feelings without fear of public rejection is both lucky and improbable, but the hit rate, by all s, is low.
Still, if it seems strange that a quirky section of a website that prides itself on an aggressively dial-up-era de has gained such traction in popular culture — all in spite of the scarce likelihood of finding love — look no further than the motivations of gold miners or oil prospectors. It may have been my own failures to connect that spurred me to take a closer look at the habits and behaviors of other posters.
It also could have been the odd voyeuristic appeal of the whole missed connections section, putting those private and vulnerable declarations of affection into a ruthlessly public, yet anonymous, context. Finally, I suspect it was also rooted in my old psych grad school mentality, making the promise of a large data set, untainted by the specter of observer effects, too tempting to ignore.
Who were these people who posted hundreds of messages each day? To see, I gathered the missed connection postings from the nine largest US cities and got to work. I analyzed the language, the people who looked and whom they looked for, the days they posted, the words they used, their ages, and a dozen of other points of comparison. And so, without further ado: the missed connections.
New York seems to be a city manufactured for missed opportunities to meet strangers. There is the pervasive reach of the subway, the relatively scarce of drivers, the never-ending throngs of people. Indeed, of all the cities New York had the highest of missed connections.
Initially, this seemed to be all about s: Of course the largest city in the country would have the most posts. The second largest city in the US, LA sits at the bottom of the tally, with only a few hundred missed connections posted during January. I hesitated to delve into posting times.
Did they mean anything? I first assumed that people would be tripping over themselves to post as soon as possible, raising the chances that the object of their affections would see their ad, but the more missed connections I read, more doubt crept in. Some people, with evident exhilaration, posted minutes after the fact; others waited a day or two before giving in and throwing caution to the wind; others waited years; others still wistful decades.
Sophie Blackall has written the book on, or rather of, missed connectionsillustrating dozens in sharp and charming style, and the latter post may be found therein. Eventually I came to the conclusion that at the very least, the times should reveal whether people took time off from their workdays to indulge in a bit of romantic daydreaming.
The times and days when people post, depicted in the heat map above, suggest that they do. Throughout the US, the most lovelorn days seem to be Mondays, from early to late evening. There is, nevertheless, a good deal of variation from one city to another: Angelenos hardly post, and the few relative spikes in postings occur almost exclusively toward the start of the week.
Houstonites, meanwhile, try their hand at romance on early Tuesday afternoons; Dallas, with the highest concentration of missed connections, has an impressive spread from Monday to Friday, with its inhabitants posting throughout the workday and late into the evening. As far as I could tell, it was: Women tend to start slowly, leaving their posts until they clocked out of work with a responsible peak around lunchtime.
Men, meanwhile, seem to have little interest in workplace propriety and begin their lovelorn postings in earnest soon after lunch is over. And what of the sheer quantity of posts? Did men out women as radically as my original s first suggested? A resounding, unequivocal yes. In any case Los Angeles men post 5.
Much like in real life, the board is populated by a mixture of occasional gems filled with earnest feeling and self-reflection, a mass of posts whose allure ranges from to on the color scale, and a small but impassioned band of people who seek to reconnect with former neighbors from years back in hopes of finding a foot mistress or offering themselves into indentured sexual labor. Star-crossed lovers, these are not. The white innermost circles indicate the most commonly used phrases. Sophie Blackall, the illustrator of the missed connections book I mentioned earlier, noted that missed connections are mostly an under game, and I began to wonder whether this was indeed the case.
Each of the four groups — men seeking men, men seeking women, women seeking men, and women seeking women — are represented by circles of different colors, and can be toggled on or off by clicking on the legend in order to get a clearer view of the spread. Hovering over any of the circles will show you all other groups in the same city. The size of each circle, as in the first chart on thisrepresents the of missed connections posted.
While women tend to post missed connections less frequently, the posts they write are often longer than those of men. Men looking for men write the briefest messages, with straight men writing slightly more verbose ones; straight women write more still. Women looking for other women seem to write the most.
Women looking to connect with strangers also tend to be younger than their male counterparts, with mean ages in their mid- to late 20s, while men posting missed connections tend to be between ages 33 and This, as it happens, is fortunate for the men. There is, unfortunately, no data on the proportion of singles by sexual orientation, so the following qualifier applies uniquely to straight men and women. In other words, by the time those something men decide to post a missed connection about a striking woman on their commute, they are more likely to find her single than they would have when they were younger; meanwhile, because something single men out something single women, those women, too, are more likely to find their missed connections available.
Thus end the s.
Now that the means and medians have been plotted and graphed, where does a detailed analysis leave us? More confident in our cartographical knowledge of the vast romantic landscape? We can all remember those moments of potential connection with that seemingly perfect stranger, the glances we regret not turning into conversations, and the sinking sense of disappointment that followed. But sifting through all this Craigslist data only serves to highlight how improbable it is that a Missed Connection will become an actual connection in real life.
Even in Dallas — the place with the most missed connections per capita, with 12 for every 10, residents — the odds are still heart-wrenchingly low. Despite the long odds — something Craigslist users readily admit to — there are still dozens of posts every day and thousands every month. Users still seem to latch onto the idea that their post might be that unlikely one in ten thousand. That a small corner of the internet with relatively few success stories to speak of continues to attract such a steady stream of hopeful romantics speaks to a comforting streak of optimism in our nature.
They all turn up with a seemingly similar hope — that perhaps this last post will be enough.
Ilia Blinderman is a freelance data journalist whose work has appeared in Quartz, the Toronto Star, and others. You can follow him on Twitter here. I analyzed 10, Craigslist missed connections. By Ilia Blinderman on April 11, Posts and population for nine US cities in January Population.
Times of missed connections postings. Posting habits of men and women, by hour Men. Male : female ratios. Most commonly used phrases in missed connections posts. Lengths of posts and ages of posters across cities Zoom in. Learn more. ZIP: 28337