Why I mourn the end of Craigslist personals – San Francisco Chronicle

Craigslist personals met an abrupt end late last month. Click on “men seeking women,” “casual encounters” or the PG-rated “strictly platonic,” and you’ll find this explanation, related to a new anti-sex-trafficking bill: “US Congress just passed HR 1865, ‘FOSTA,’ seeking to subject websites to criminal and civil liability when third parties (users) misuse online personals unlawfully. … We can’t take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we are regretfully taking craigslist personals offline.”
I’m mourning the death of Craigslist personals, and not only because I met my partner this way.
I always tell the truth when asked how we met. No sense inventing a more palatable relationship origin story: Through friends; our eyes met across office cubicles. No, I posted a personal ad on Craigslist’s San Francisco Bay Area site in 2015 at the height of my hurt with someone I’d met the old-fashioned way, in a bar.
Craigslist offered a blank canvas where I could dump my heart, and the core of my whopping 446-word ad read: “I love reading and museums, walking around and exploring the city, people watching. I’m an old soul and like fossilized places frozen in time, like ancient dive bars and greasy spoon diners. I’m a sucker for Victorian and art deco architecture, so I’m happy when I’m outside because there is beauty wherever I go in this city. I’m rarely at home. I try hard to be kind and patient. Humor is important to me — how else are we going to survive the day? People in California have also told me I’m very upfront, direct, and opinionated. This is true, and you should be comfortable with this. I can be sarcastic and love to complain, but all in good fun — that’s just how us native New Yorkers bond.”
I received hundreds of responses. Among them were appreciative notes from men decades older who wondered if I knew any single women their age. In the spam, invitations to polyamorous relationships and hate mail from folks who thought I sounded uppity, I received genuine notes from other lonely people. My hands ached from typing, and I scheduled multiple meetings a day with people from all over the Bay Area: lawyers, businessmen, tech workers, a bus driver, a doctor, a mechanic, a physicist, a carpenter, a sculptor, a nurse, a guidance counselor. Like me, everyone had been a little bruised by life.
Folded into the waves of email was a too good to be true-sounding note from my now-partner. We met three days later, a year after I had left my husband and landed on the West Coast. How else would I have crossed paths with an introverted engineer from Austria who had worked in a national lab on the Bay Area’s easternmost edge? I lived in San Francisco and commuted to Berkeley as a postdoctoral fellow in sociology. Neither of us had smartphones or used social media.
In addition to him, I met many quiet men like me who eschewed dating apps and selfies. A few avoided smartphones. I’d considered other technology to meet people, but dating apps and websites turned me off with their innumerable questions to answer, passwords and snappy user names to select, and photos to curate. My single friends seemed exhausted and miserable from it all. No wonder a whole secondary industry had emerged to spare you the agony of crafting your own OkCupid profile.
I’m grateful I met my partner through Craigslist. But more than that, I’m sorry to see the platform’s simplicity and freedom go, especially given privacy concerns about information we provide to networking sites like Facebook. Few venues allow you to scribble outside the lines and resist algorithms and tick-the-box responses that make data mining easier. The demise of Craigslist personals, a sometimes lurid, often entertaining and freewheeling corner of the Internet, marks the end of an era. In its farewell, Craigslist affirmed: “To the millions of spouses, partners, and couples who met through Craigslist, we wish you every happiness!” Thank you, CL, for providing a place for misfits like us.
Stacy Marlena Torres is an assistant professor of sociology and an associate of the Center for Social and Demographic Analysis at the University at Albany, State University of New York.


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