By Laren Hines

It is a small spotlight that every U of L student dreams to be in. 

Every week, a particular Instagram user fields through hundreds of Google Form submissions in search of “missed connections” – anonymous messages from students who are not quite prepared to share their feelings out loud. The account, @missedconnectionsuofl, picks a handful of submissions, posting them to their crowd of nearly 900 followers. 

The concept itself is not new. In fact, online message boards were the cornerstone of an early iteration of the Internet that thrived on niche communities and pseudonymous connections. It wasn’t until the dawn of social networks (think Friendster or Myspace) that users began fusing their online personas with real life. Now, it is virtually impossible to split social media from reality at all. 

Whether intentional or not, @missedconnectionsuofl has somehow tapped into a nostalgia that precedes most college students today. So, why is it that students find this anonymity so appealing? 

Anonymous, day-to-day thoughts

“I think a big factor of it comes down to how many people we admire on a day-to-day basis,” shares the account’s owner.

“Most people don’t realize how often they subconsciously think ‘Oh wow, I really like that aspect about this person.’ People underestimate how frequently they are the subject of [these] thoughts from other people.” 

A majority of “missed connections” are usually directed towards a specific person. They typically feature a physical description of someone at a specific location, at a certain time, and on a particular date. The account collects submissions over a few days and posts sporadically across the week.

It has become a habit for me – and many other students – to eagerly swipe through a new post, hoping that some unknown peer found our outfits cool and demeanor charming. The anonymity of it all creates an allure akin to having a secret admirer.

However, “missed connections” are not always just digital chocolate and roses. 

Privacy within the anonymity

While @missedconnectionsuofl sticks strongly to avoiding overtly political, negative, and hurtful submissions, many students can recall that submission that slipped through the cracks via a former “missed connections” account – @uoflmissedconnections. 

Around a year ago, the now-defunct account shared a submission featuring heavily transphobic sentiment. The statement, which has since been removed, was made around an uptick in the threatening, harassment, and assault of transgender students on campus. At the same time, the Kentucky Legislature was one step closer to passing Senate Bill 150, whose veto was overridden and effectively became law in late March. 

Followers quickly condemned the former account owner for posting the statement and being untimely with their apology. Although it is maintained that they graduated last spring, their posts slowed down considerably following the incident and came to a halt well before commencement. 

Removing oneself from their bigotry is not the only potential dilemma with anonymous submissions. While many students find it flattering to have themselves featured in a long-awaited post, some may feel that their privacy is violated. After all, with detailed timestamps and physical descriptions, the submissions inform us of where a specific person typically is at a given time of day.

However, these threats are well mitigated through the filter of human understanding.

“I think there’s value in the ability to speak without having your identity tied to the message, and thankfully there are other platforms where that is easily accessible,” the account owner shared. “But because of that, I like to keep the page as a peaceful, fun alternative that people can always look forward to reading… having a ‘safe zone’ for this type of content is beneficial to have around.”

@missedconnectionsuofl is the re-imagination of the nineties’ message board – a small corner of U of L’s internet that thrives on spreading positivity and encouraging campus connection. It is a breath of fresh air for a generation well aware of the divisive, dangerous, and often downright dreadful world of social media.  

One student even said the only issue with “missed connections” is “that [they] haven’t been mentioned yet.” @missedconnectionsuofl has created a space for students to engage with – and be fascinated by – the frequency of human admiration. 

“The next time you walk around campus, you’ll probably notice how often you do that. Even if it’s as simple as ‘that guy is pretty cute,’ or ‘this girl’s outfit rocks,’” the account owner said. “Sometimes it does just feel good to let someone know that you appreciate them, without any other strings or identity attached.” 

It may seem like a rose-tinted perspective. But for students, it is a glimpse of goodness that makes our campus feel a little more accepting and kind.

@missedconnectionsuofl is a recognized contributor to this article whose identity has been protected for confidentiality.