One of my favorite aspects of the Boston College experience is the random relationships people are able to form outside their immediate circles. Over the last four years, I’ve met many people through clubs, classes, parties, and random encounters on campus who I’ve later become good friends with. From the people I met while walking back from class and working at the dining hall, to the strangers I smile at in the gym every Wednesday morning, I cherish the many connections that I have made. As I think back on my last four years at BC, I realize that it’s the people I have met in the most unlikely of situations that have made going to BC so special.
In discussions I have had with friends of mine over the last year about navigating college during a pandemic, one of the major themes that has come up is the difficulty of connecting with others . With less in-person interactions from classes and clubs and strict guest policies in our own living spaces, there are far less opportunities to merely see the people we want to—let alone have those chance encounters that we forgot encompassed so much of the college experience.
Following a year of isolation, we all seem to be looking for connections—friendships, romantic relationships, or perhaps something in between. So where does this leave us, a bunch of college students eager to once again branch outside of our immediate circles? Enter BC Missed Connections, a new Instagram account created at the beginning of this school year that has allowed students to recreate those chance encounters they have been lacking. Students can anonymously submit a “connection” they have had with another BC student, the account posts the message, and if a follower believes it is about them, the Instagram account will provide them with the contact details of the original poster. While, like the submission, the identity of the account holder remains anonymous, I had the opportunity to dive a little deeper into how these connections are made.
“My inspiration behind this account was seeing a version of this at a different school,” the creator says, “I thought it would be a fun idea to have at BC especially with COVID and it being hard to make new friends. Students are responsive [since] it’s a way to reach out to someone [online] who you may have regretted not [connecting with] in person or if you never knew their name and run into them a bunch of times. We try to make this account something fun for students to engage with because it's nerve wracking but we want it to also stay casual.”
BC students have certainly been responsive to the account, which has posted over 200 direct messages it has received since September 2020. Not every connection is posted, however, as the account receives a high volume of messages from students daily. While not every connection is found or reciprocated, the process has allowed many students to put themselves out there in the absence of other opportunities.
“A decent amount of our submissions turn into matches which is always fun. We never share anyone’s profile unless they say they are comfortable and sometimes people aren’t! Some inquiries don’t get responses, and some are the wrong match, but we definitely have too many matches to keep track of.”
It is important, as always, to consider the dangers of anonymously posting online, and BC Missed Connections attempts to monitor submissions based on some set of community guidelines, specifically to make sure that nothing too graphic or charged gets posted. The intention is to keep things light and fun.
“There are dms that we haven’t shared…some messages get political or are extremely sexual. We want the account to be funny and fun and don’t want anyone to get offended. For the sexual ones, since it’s anonymous we don’t want the person the post is about to get uncomfortable…There is a fine line between too sexual and funny and we want everyone to have fun reading the posts.”
BC hookup culture has certainly changed during this past year as well, with many more people sticking to relationships in their own circles out of fear of branching out more. While some have never quite loved hookup culture to begin with, fewer chance encounters means that people have become less likely to put themselves out there.
“I think right now with COVID it’s easier to send a submission because with masks it's harder to go up to a stranger and start a conversation. Sometimes though, I just wish the people would go up to them and say something! But I guess that’s what the account is for...this anonymous account goes both ways in making people more confident. I think in a way it might make people more hesitant because if they miss their opportunity they can go to the account and say something. However, it does take a certain confidence to make a submission and confidence to engage with the connected person.”
The pandemic has made many of us risk-averse, yet perhaps the hardest part of making random connections with people seems to be the risks associated with such vulnerability. While this existed prior to COVID-19, especially now with physical barriers and distancing, it requires much more effort to take risks when the opportunities seem few and far between. It feels foreign and nerve wracking, even more-so than a normal year, to finally ask out that girl from your philosophy class, or to introduce yourself to the guy who held the door open for you at the gym. This is where vulnerability comes in. To me, while there is something incredibly frightening in these moments, there is something in the air at BC that seems to connect the members of its community to one another—and no pandemic can take this away. So while BC Missed Connections is a wonderful way for students who have difficulty putting themselves out there to hopefully foster more of those chance relationships we all know and love, I, along with the account holder, encourage people to take some more risks in the process. With a little over a month left on campus and a pandemic-filled school year coming to a close, it would benefit us all to be a little more vulnerable in our risk-taking. You never know what will come of it.