Once upon a time on the internet, if you had a brief encounter with someone you couldn’t stop thinking about, you might post something poetic about it on Craigslist’s Missed Connections. But that once-beloved section of the site has been a shadow of its former self for years. In 2022, where do you turn to find that special someone with whom you had a fleeting romantic moment? Answer: TikTok.
While TikTok trends tend to have an extremely short shelf life, missed connection videos have remained popular on the service since 2020. The #missedconnections hashtag now boasts more than 20.7 million views, while the associated hashtags #findher and #findhim have a stunning 200 million and 381 million views respectively. But many more missed connection-style videos are posted without hashtags, relying on fate — in the form of TikTok’s algorithm — to find the person who made their heart skip a beat.
Marielle Kinney, now a 22-year-old bartender based in New York City, posted one of those videos when she was a senior at the University of California in September 2020. This was, of course, before vaccines became available; it felt impossible and unwise to meet new people, let alone fall in love. Nevertheless, in her video, Kinney sits on her roof and describes a charming meet-cute: “Last night I was skating on campus at UC Berkeley and this really cute pink-haired girl yelled ‘do you listen to girl in red?'” (That phrase has become a trendy way to ask a woman if she’s queer.)
“I got really uncomfortable and didn’t say anything back even though I was single and hadn’t met anyone new in forever,” Kinney explains now. “I wouldn’t have tried to do it on Instagram or Facebook or any other social media app. I knew that it was strictly the TikTok algorithm that would be able to find her. Unlike other social media apps where you have to have mutual connections, on TikTok it’s mutual interests, so I felt like it was the highest likelihood of actually finding someone.”
Plus, Kinney adds, “I had seen it work” — courtesy of a TikTok that appeared on Kinney’s “For You Page” (FYP), where another user enthused about having actually found their missed connection on the service.
That’s the advantage #missedconnections have over the old Craigslist version. Back then, you’d have to hope your potential lover happened to be browsing the website. But TikTok can push your video to the FYP of a service that has surpassed a billion monthly active users. In a world of divisive algorithms, here’s one that can actually bring people together in the service of romance.
Kinney’s video was flooded with comments such as “I live in Berkeley so you’re close!,” “just sent this to my Cal group chat,” and “commenting for the algorithm.” Kinney’s video received more than 8,000 likes. More importantly, it was shared by 550 other users — a tactic that helps push #missedconnections to more FYPs. And amazingly, this one worked.
In this case, unfortunately, the girl Kinney was looking for was too young. “We exchanged three Snapchats, she said she was 18, and I was a senior in college and felt like I was in a different place in life than any 18 year-old,” Kinney says. But “it was still cool to be able to find that person.”
When a TikTok user known as Lamica Renee, a 28 year-old model in Pennsylvania, tried out the missed connection trend, the aim was to find a man she met on the beach in Miami who’d given his number; she then lost it. “Posting the video was fun,” she says. “Everyone was really positive in the comments, saying things like ‘yeah, we will find him!'”
As with Kinney, she found her target. As with Kinney, it was a bust. “Hope he ain’t married,” Lamica wrote in the TikTok captions. Alas, he was.
Chloe Andrews-Green, a 22 year-old in Adelaide, Australia, found herself the object of a viral missed connection video. Adam Buirski posted a video dedicated “to the girl i fell in love with on a family trip in 2011 when i was 10,” together with photos of him and the girl from the trip.
Spoiler alert: Andrews-Green is that girl, but she’s also a lesbian in committed relationship.
Andrew-Green’s mom’s friend came across the TikTok in a local Facebook group and sent it to her mother who sent it to her. At the time Andrew-Green first saw the video, it only had 24,000 views. It has since been seen more than 2.4 million times.
Andrew-Green duetted the video with her photos from the holiday they met on. “I posted the TikTok and purposefully left out that I am in a relationship with a girl, but I put it in the comments and the comments section blew up,” she says. “There’s one person that replies to every comment saying, ‘you know she’s a lesbian’ to really reiterate that I’m a lesbian.”
But does that matter when missed connection videos can also reignite the spark of friendship? “It’s been really nice, he’s called me a couple of times to see how I’m doing,” says Andrew-Green.
‘People love to support other people’s romantic endeavors’
As with Craigslist’s Missed Connections, then, the TikTok version seems unlikely to lead to romance even if you find the object of your affections. But it’s the journey rather than the destination that matters — especially when millions of other users are on the journey with you.
“Everyone is a hopeless romantic, so when they see one of these cute videos they think ‘oh I’ve had this sort of missed connection, let me help make sure this doesn’t happen to someone else,'” Kinney says. “People love to support other people’s romantic endeavors.”
When you engage with these videos you’re engaging with a narrative and believing in the possibility that a meet-cute could happen to you too. Kinney’s girl was too young for her. The man Lamica was searching for turned out to be married. Buirski discovered his missed connection wasn’t interested in him — or men at all for that matter— but that doesn’t detract from the appeal of the videos.
What TikTok has captured in these viral videos is something that is in short supply these days: A moment of collective hope.