Confessions of a Missed Connections Crap Artist
Dear Doc. Andrew,
I am following a noble lineage of advice column contributors. From moms asking Abby why their teenager “don’t like me anymore,” to bored Yale students bothering Ms. Landers with sordidly fictional tales, to one Samuel Clemens asking the Hannibal Journal’s ask Arthur for penname advice (it’s true, look it up!). The columns may be eponymous to their writers, as with “The Ethicist," or the Abbys, Anns, Prudies, and their respective women, but the real stars are the daring letter senders.
There is a quiet humility in the act of exposing your problems to the world, signing with a pithy Anonymous-based pun, just to get torn to shreds by some 65-year-old who calls herself Miss Mannerly or some bullshit. A truly artful advice column article is rare, and they only arrive when the asker and the answerer work together in a correspondence ballet: “Anxiously Anonymous” has a silly yet learnable situation through which they unintentionally act the fool, “Dr. Respect” lightly mocks Anxiously, but still provides a meaningful response. Laffs all around, we’ve all learned a little more, and bedtime by 9:30 p.m. The pranksters sending in fake stories can never reach the peaks of the “real deal” because they’ve (I’ve) got no authenticity.
But now Ann Landers is dead, Abigail Van Buren is dead, newspapers are dead, and advice columns are dying alongside them (although Cecil Adams is still kicking). So the teeming masses must get their kicks elsewhere. They now get to take their takes local. An Instagram, Facebook, Twitter page, dedicated to YOUR school, onto which people can post about their encounters, or maybe confess their sins.
I first encountered this phenomenon in the hallowed posts of the Stuyvesant Confessions Facebook page, a hive of sin and degeneracy populated primarily by: the disgustingly lonely; the borderline suicidal; the hilarious jokester; posts centered around doing sexual acts (solo or with “friends”) in bathrooms (a well-trodden trope in our disgusting times (perhaps the replacement of the traditional toilet stall poems (As seen at the urinal: look up… look up… look up… you’re pissing on your shoes)), Judith “Miss Manners” Martin rolls in her grave). The range from remarkably low-brow to shockingly touching is undoubtedly what kept me — and surely the 85 other Stuyvesant students here at Carnegie Mellon — interested. Of course, I never submitted a confession there. I wasn’t thaaat much of a loser (although some of the Stuy -> Carnegie Mellon students may claim otherwise). Nothing confessional-worthy (Catholic or otherwise) happened to me in high school. And what kind of schmuck would submit fake stories?
I submitted so many Carnegie Mellon fakes, I can’t even remember them all. This may be a sign of my poor memory, my prodigious amount of submissions, or maybe just a demonstration of how silly (and probably fabricated) other Instagram submissions are. Spread across @cmu.missed.connections and the now-banned-for-harassment (not my fault) @cmuconfessionals are my works, more than 15, but less than 20. I don’t do it anymore, of course. That’s one addiction I have beaten. On Instagram, the gatekeepers are completely dead. There is no artistry in crafting a convincing fake, and nobody cares to catch them. In a Baudrillardian sense, all the submissions are fake now, and I’ve got nothing special. I’m probably not the most prolific, and certainly not the funniest. All I’ve got is the platform provided by schmoozing with the writing equivalent of theater kids (it’s shockingly easy to become a Staffwriter for the Tartan).
If only there was some priest, Dan Savage, or advice columnist analog to confess to! But no, the fake posts are written solely for the self and the friends who know the trickery, and for the vapid Instagram “others” to read and laugh at, perhaps even believing it to be real. To be honest, this modern form resembles trolling more than writing to an advice columnist. How shameful!
Because of this, there was no artistry to @cmuconfessionals. The baseline truth of any individual confession was already in the dirt, and the extremely outrageous was commonplace (who knew that many students whacked their hogs into their roommates' clothes?) My submissions here were orthogonal — never sexual — and I’m pretty sure weren’t what got the account banned.
It was @cmu.missed.connections that would serve as my best canvas. The account was theoretically made for people to submit actual missed connections. Y’know, the “We ate lunch together, but I never got your name. Get back to me and we can eat out next time” deal. But at the hands of Carnegie Mellon students, this content became more of the written creep shot variety, style “to the brown girl with the black and red hair and the skateboard who was eating alone at the Egg Shoppe, I wanted to say hi to you but I was too shy and worried I’d drop my spaghetti. Let's meet up, if you’re single…” Disgusting, but also ripe for parody. There were certain on-campus archetypes that popped up so frequently: the hot alt barista girl (h-h-hopefully she likes g-g-girls…), the skater (a board on campus? So cool!), the fratty daddy who drinks the natty (he’s in Sigma Epstein, but he’s sooo hot!), the classmate (nerdy, but accessible. Who knows why the contributor doesn’t just talk to them, they sit so close!), the specific girl (you gotta find a way to specify in incredible detail their height, race, skin color, gender, sex, location, middle name…). Oh, and don’t forget to shout out the homie (Andrew the TA is soooo smart and hot!).
My fake missed connections were amazing. People frequently believed and had genuine emotional responses to them. I even had someone use the crying laughing emoji in reference to one, an experience which will only be matched in elation by the future birth of my only son. One of my favorites was: “To the girl I saw at CIT declaration day in the flapper outfit, we locked eyes but I never got your name. If you thought I was cute, meet me at the Wean La Prima the Friday after this is posted at 1pm.”
I’ll never know if this hypothetical flapper-outfit-wearing CIT girl showed up, because I sure as hell didn’t.
Waxing and confessionalizing,
This all sounds very lame. Have you tried going “Walden” and appreciating the natural beauty present in the world? Or alternatively, getting a girlfriend?
Yours, Doc. Andrew