Instagram account seeks to reunite students’ missed connections

Pitt+Missed+Connections+is+an+Instagram+account+with+the+mission+of+putting+students+in+contact+with+a+person+they+wish+they+had+spoken+to.+An+anonymous+Pitt+student+created+the+account+after+Pitt+shut+down+due+to+the+pandemic.

Screenshot of @pitt.missedconnections

Pitt Missed Connections is an Instagram account with the mission of putting students in contact with a person they wish they had spoken to. An anonymous Pitt student created the account after Pitt shut down due to the pandemic.

By Kaitlyn Nuebel, Staff Writer

As she studied on the fourth floor of Hillman Library last fall, Rachael Stowe noticed an attractive guy with dark hair and pretty eyes looking at her.

“You know when you look at people and they just seem like they’re very down to earth and kind?” Stowe, a junior applied developmental psychology major, said. “All the interaction we had was from across the room on the fourth floor of Hillman, but there was just this energy he had, which I personally was drawn to.”

Stowe saw the mysterious guy, whom she refers to as “Hillman Boy,” sitting at the same spot in the library consistently in the coming days. On each occasion they would look at each other and smile, but Stowe was hesitant to talk to him — she didn’t want to make things weird. It went on like that for weeks. Then months. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the University shut down. Stowe missed her chance.

But for Stowe and other Pitt students looking for their missed connections, it might not be too late. An anonymous Pitt student created Pitt Missed Connections on March 8, an Instagram account with the mission of putting students in contact with the person they wish they had spoken to — a cute COVID screener or person standing at the bus stop — but never did.

The creator of Pitt Missed Connections, a student who asked to be referred to by the pseudonym Timothy, said he posts about students’ missed connections submitted through an anonymous Google form, linked in the Pitt Missed Connections account bio.

“They can fill out a Google form describing the person they missed a connection with and hopefully the person in question will see it if they’re descriptive enough,” Timothy said. “Then someone comments on that post if they think they’re the person in question, and the person who submits a missed connection can then reach out to them.”

Timothy, who has played the role of matchmaker throughout his life, said he decided to start the account about an hour after coming across a missed connections account for students at the University of Vermont.

“I saw it and I just thought it would be so fun,” Timothy said. “I didn’t think it would blow up like it would, so I thought it would be a fun idea to try out, but it did end up getting really big.”

In less than a month, Pitt Missed Connections received over 130 posts from people looking for a missed connection, and almost 1,500 users followed the account.

Timothy said he started Pitt Missed Connections with a post explaining the account, and a few of his friends’ real missed connection stories. Then he followed hundreds of people he knew of but wasn’t friends with, to make sure the account couldn’t be tracked back to him.

“I wanted to remain anonymous and still do because I don’t want to deal with people saying, ‘Why did you not post this one? Why did you post this one and not censor it?’” Timothy said. “I’m okay with that coming to an anonymous page with no name attached but I would not want to deal with that in my personal life.”

Missed connections began rolling in from other students. Timothy said he eventually received so many responses on the Google form that he had to cap the account at eight posts a day.

“For every 4, 5, 6, 8 that I post, I get double in the Google form,” Timothy said. “I think it’s because people see these posts and they want to have their own up there.”

One of those posts came from Stowe, who filled out the Google Form in hopes of finding Hillman Boy.

“I decided to submit my Pitt Missed Connection through the page because I was like ‘why not? Maybe he’ll see it, maybe he won’t, maybe people will find it funny,’” Stowe said.

No one commented on Stowe’s post, but less than a week later she received a frantic text at 3 a.m. from a friend telling her to look at a new post on Pitt Missed Connections — a guy was looking for a girl he always saw on the fourth floor of Hillman library.

Stowe identified herself as the person who submitted the original Hillman post in a comment on the new post that received 35 likes.

“So many people were really drawn [to the story],” Stowe said. “I had people reaching out to me, so many people commenting on the post being like, ‘This is amazing, this is what I’m here for.’”

Kiera Dickey, junior marketing and business information systems double major, posted a comment comparing Stowe’s story to a quote on a wall in the Library.

“I feel like it’s a pretty universal Pitt experience to see someone in Hillman … so I thought that was adorable,” Dickey said. “My friends and I always look at the quotes on the wall in the staircase … there’s the one quote that’s like ‘I remember the night I met my wife in Hillman Library.’”

Lexi Handrinos, a first-year pursuing an emergency medicine major, said she also had her eye on Stowe’s post. Handrinos said that for many people, stories like Stowe’s offer a sign of hope in a difficult time.

“I think we’re all going through for a tough time right now, and seeing other people find happiness — even if it does end up in just a friendship or it does end up in a true love story — you see people happy to meet other people,” Handrinos said.

Stowe said she doesn’t know yet whether her story with Hillman Boy will be one of friendship or true love. While she has received 15 direct messages on Instagram asking if Hillman Boy ever reached out to her, she said she’s still waiting for a message from him.

“It’s sad that he hasn’t reached out, and maybe he never will, and maybe it’s not the person — there’s so many maybes here,” Stowe said, “but the fact that it gave people a distraction from everything else that’s been going on … I feel like it almost gave people an, ‘Oh my God these things can still happen even if our college experience is changing day by day.’”

Stowe said if there’s one thing she wants Hillman Boy to know, it’s that there is someone out there who noticed him.

“I just want Hillman Boy to know that somebody noticed him and that someone, even now, even a year later, he’s on somebody’s mind,” Stowe said, “somebody’s thinking about him and hoping he’s doing well.”

Well, that and one other thing she thought of later.

“Oh my God,” Stowe said. “One other thing that I want to say to the guy is to meet me on the fourth floor of Hillman, obviously.”

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