By Anna Yang
@stanfordmissedconnections is an Instagram page originally began innocently, for Stanford students to confess their “missed connections” on campus, with the first post dating back August 18, 2019. This post, written by the anonymous manager behind the page (pseudonym SMC) encouraged followers to “send us your secret crushes and we’ll share it (anonymously of course) to the whole world.”
Prior to the creation of the Stanford page, there had been many similar pages appearing for different schools, such as the University of Virginia (@uvamissedconnections), Tulane University (@tulanemissedconnections) and Washington University in St. Louis (@washumissedconnections). In an email to The Daily, SMC spoke about the beginning of the page.
“I didn’t have a real vision for it all, but it was entertaining; it was casual and I enjoyed giving the page a personality.” SMC was careful to ensure the page remained lighthearted and a place to “be able to share anonymous crushes, but having a moderator meant it wouldn’t turn into some racist mess.”
Students were hesitant to submit at first, with the beginning posts at only nine likes, but the page quickly blew up and has gained more than 3,000 followers in less than a year. One student wrote, “To the CO president with the cool tattoo, you’re cute [kiss emoji] let’s go on a date.” Others, rather than confessing their crush, made jokes about the posts.
“To the cute [boy or girl] with [insert generic white features], you can [verb] in my [noun] anytime.”
During the school year, Alix Cui ’23 saw Missed Connections as “a fun medium to joke around with friends.” Previously, he had “submitted a missed connection for my close friend as a joke,” Cui said. “It was a common trend during the school year where a lot of students submitted missed connections hyping up their friends to make it seem as if an anonymous person was searching for them.”
However, after the majority of undergraduate students left campus abruptly back in March, there were no longer any “missed connections” to report, aside from various items forgotten in dorm rooms.
When the 2020 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct results were released, it sparked campus-wide outrage over Stanford’s management of sexual harassment. On June 21, the first of many reports was posted, calling out the Stanford community’s “perpetual silence” on “the amount of abuse and assault that goes on here.”
What followed was a series of over 50 anonymous allegations of sexual assault and claims of Stanford’s indifference towards the victims. Here, Stanford Missed Connections was used as a safe platform to expose the issues that Stanford, along with other students, had previously been hesitant to address.
One poster wrote about her experience where, after being sexually assaulted, she “opened up to this girl” who “defended my abuser and described him as a ‘nice and funny guy.’” Many comments expressed shock and disgust over the actions of people in the Stanford community, and encouraged students to speak up about their own experiences.
“Recently, there have been a lot of Missed Connections posts regarding status quo issues that affect the Stanford Community,” Cui observed. “It’s sort of grown into an educative hub for some like me.”
SMC is proud to be part of this shift in discussion, and hopes the platform, with so many viewers, becomes a place where “sexual assault survivors can share their stories knowing that people in the Stanford community who would otherwise ignore such topics will be forced to hear them.”
However, Alexa Ramachandran ’22 has mixed feelings. She dislikes “how quickly [the] topic of conversation seems to change.”
“The sexual assault discussions lasted a week and then it’s onto the next topic, like it’ll last another week too,” she said. This bouncing around “makes the topics feel like they have less permanence, implying a frivolousness.”
But despite Ramachandran’s qualms about the platform’s treatment of these serious topics, she thinks “it’s wonderful when people change the platform to suit their own needs and the creator is on board as well.”
When Stanford announced that 11 sports would be cut indefinitely, students voiced their opinions over the Instagram page. But some posters called out the athletes for disregarding the problems that international students were facing with ICE’s new policies.
“I’m so sick of different communities fighting over who’s in a worst [sic] situation. This is not a competition,” an anonymous poster said. “Can’t we just acknowledge that we are all struggling and start supporting and respecting each other’s pain?”
SMC told The Daily in an email about the change of the Instagram page from a place to confess about crushes to a debate platform.
“When protests started after the murder of George Floyd, it would have been problematic had I not made space for a discussion about what role Stanford and college students play in upholding white supremacy.” SMC believes Stanford Missed Connections is the perfect place for students to begin speaking up about their own opinions, as it’s “where people from all over the Stanford community are present and folks aren’t preaching to the choir.”
Lorena Diosdado ’21 is glad that a public and widely-viewed page is being used to spread awareness and information.
“Missed Connections has people from different communities engaging with each other,” she said. “Usually, the necessary conversations around socioeconomic class in higher ed are only happening between FLI students, and the people who need to be there, the more affluent kids, just don’t show up.”
“The page is so public that now messaging from marginalized communities is spreading into the feeds of people who should be listening and learning,” she added.
However, Diosdado wishes “there was greater filtering in who is allowed to comment and having actual Stanford affiliations, so as to not derail conversations.”
The movement in discussion on @stanfordmissedconnections has also impacted the page and its viewer demographics.
“In the past couple of months I’ve had a ton of people submit for the first time, either to share their particular opinions, or show appreciation for the page,” SMC noted. “I’ve also gotten a lot more messages from spam accounts, completely unrelated to the page, as well as a couple of sugar daddies. That’s the price of fame I suppose…”
In the future, SMC sees many more substantial debates taking place, especially in the current environment where social injustices are being brought into the spotlight.
People have also been wondering about the identity behind the page, but sadly, SMC said it wouldn’t “be good at this point for me to reveal my identity, considering the amount of sensitive and personal things students have confided in me.”
However, SMC does “plan on passing on the account at some time in the future (or at least bringing on others to help run it).”
Contact Anna Yang at annayang780 ‘at’ gmail.com.