The Missed Connections of Craigslist

Craigslist is not a desired destination for many. Of course, I’m all but certain the majority of people have heard of the original online marketplace, or at the very least have traversed the massive, nearly endless, online catalog of personal listings that range from cars or couches to jobs or those seeking roommates. With the rise of Facebook Marketplace and other online marketplace applications in recent years, Craigslist seems to have a dwindling use amongst younger generations, or at the very minimum, no longer wields the reputation it once had. 

Craigslist began in 1995 and in nearly 29 years of the website’s existence the layout remains relatively similar to the day of its inception. White background and blue-stenciled font. An incredibly simple UI: columns and rows for housing, jobs, gigs, sales, services, forums with a wide range of categories, separated by location but accessible to everyone throughout the United States and in many countries throughout the world. Craigslist resembles the web designs of the days when dial-up internet reigned supreme. A time when web interfaces were focused on simplicity and not emphatic designs. And while this lack of adaptation may seem like the notion of a website nearing the end of its lifespan, it is rather an homage to the kind of spirit that Craigslist embodies. A simple website for simple people, those trying to buy a used car, somehow secure a job, swap houses, get a ride, argue about politics, find a connection that was believed to be forever lost. 

Could it really become any more simple than that?

Exactly why Craigslist has lost popularity amongst newer generations becomes obvious when you peel back the outer layer of ad listings, delving deep into the underbelly of those sad and strange souls searching for connection. What occurs beyond the typical transactions, when personalities become involved. 

What makes Facebook Marketplace a nearly scam-proof and secure online market is the connection to your identity. What makes Craigslist, Craigslist, is the odd focus on anonymity, which in a world where many are obsessed with their privacy, tends to attract particularly strange demographics and personalities towards one collective destination. It’s safe to say that Craigslist acts as a pseudo-social platform for those who may be outcasts of our current state of social media or vestiges of the past one, harboring them into one seemingly boring, yet simple, website.

Maybe those who prefer Craigslist are exactly the kinds of people who need to be on Craigslist, a website where they can search for anything—whether that be a pet, a half-broken TV, or one last attempt to establish the connection they believe is true. Craigslist is great when utilized with the correct intent. There are no marketplaces for love, regardless of what apps like Bumble, Hinge, or Tinder try to promote. Finding love on the internet still proves to be elusive, so it’s obvious why those who share some serendipitous moment that feels as if it were plucked straight from a Hallmark romantic comedy attempt to capture what they had for a fleeting moment via the website they are most comfortable with.

As a cynic who is plagued with an obsessive interest in niche oddities, I’ve been aware of the missed connections page on Craigslist for some time now. And having been an avid reader of many people’s last attempt to find that one single person in a sea of millions, I’ve come to realize how oddly poetic one becomes when they are laying their desires and emotions out onto the internet, under the protective shield of an anonymous profile.

Undeniably, these posts range from honest, nearly gentlemanly efforts to find the soul they shared a brief interaction with. They are sparse on the romantics and are closer to a play-by-play of what occurred. An attempt to preserve their brief encounter in the logs of internet history. Sometimes these listings are nothing more than an unrequited hope that the stranger in question understands the impact they had on them.

On the contrary, these posts can also get straight to business. After all, they have gone as far as Craigslist to send out an alert to the special someone who got away, so why not push their luck further and let them know what is really being desired.

As I stated before, Craigslist is nationwide. Venture to some states like Michigan or New York and discover that these missed connections posts are often diluted down to the author’s emotions being shouted into an endless void.

The farther one travels down the rabbit hole of missed connections, it’s easy to forget that this is Craigslist of all places. Search through the laundry list of attempts and realize that these posts aren’t made solely as an attempt to establish a connection, but bring the interactions they once experienced and their own emotions into focus.

These are the kinds of questions that can’t be answered on Craigslist. Falling into a loved ones arms has never been listed on an online marketplace and the exact cost of this is unknown. What’s important here is that instead of seeking help elsewhere, some come to Craigslist and instead of searching for an item, ask existential questions in an attempt to bandage their own heartbreak.

Social media; dating apps, they are often irrational attempts to bridge a connection where one may never have formed. Toy with fate, as some would say. Craigslist gives some agency back to those who seem to be more lost than those who search for a connection at face value. There are some who seem to be superfluous about not letting what we once held for a brief moment in time slip through our fingers, and those who are looking for the simple pleasures in life, provided that we contribute to a shared cause.

Anonymity be damned, the seemingly lost souls perusing Craigslist for more than used household goods will never give up their fight to reignite a spark or make a new friend. While these listings of love and friendship are seemingly sad, it’s important to remember that this all takes place online. 

Are we ever certain that what we read is real? 

Is Craigslist—of all internet destinations—reserved for the strange outcasts of generations who struggle to prioritize their online presence over reality?

Craigslist may never change, and that is probably a good thing for many. Those who don’t find themselves browsing through the internal thoughts of thousands on a website primarily used to sell goods and services shouldn’t start anytime soon. As Craigslist proceeds to ignore the advancements of the constantly-developing internet age, it is worth noting the importance Craigslist serves to those who continually comb the depths of an online marketplace for something—a lover, a friend, an understanding—that may never be found. A journeyed search for those who prefer the simple, the anonymous, and their quest to acquire the impermanent moments of human interaction that elude them.

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