Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.
An artist analyzes the geography of New York Craigslist personal ads
Behold the Missed Connection:
Beautiful Blonde Western Pacific Bank today
“You were walking out as I was entering, not exactly the most conducive atmosphere for starting a conversation but I'm hoping you realized how interested I am in getting to know you.”
This too-late response is the quintessential Missed Connection, the popular Craigslist section that's intended to help people find the attractive strangers they’ve walked past or made distant eyes at or just saw on the bus. It’s the dating equivalent of a shot in the dark.
With upwards of a thousand posts a week in some cities, these missed connections amount to a lot of lonely people. They also amount to a lot of data. And because these people are trying to reconnect with people they physically saw in a specific place, they often include the geographical hints that might help in bringing them together – information like street names, store locations and transit stops.
New York-based artist Ingrid Burrington has been tracking and analyzing Missed Connections in New York for the past few years to tap into this rich data set. From thousands of posts, she’s been able to map a picture of loneliness in the city, identifying hotspots for missed connections. The Village Voice recently interviewed Burrington about her work, and where the most Missed Connections occur.
What's the loneliest place in New York City?
I would say it's Union Square. It's a major train interchange, and most Missed Connections happen on the subway. Also, it's a large public space, and second to subways, Missed Connections tend to happen on street. Whole Foods, also, is a really lonely place.
By identifying areas where Missed Connections commonly occur, we can get a more detailed picture of what happens in these places and why people seem to want to connect in them but can’t.