Lauren Rhodewalt got dumped on Valentine’s Day.
She was in the seventh grade. It was her first boyfriend ever.
“That’s why I’m so damaged,” joked Rhodewalt, now 26. “I clearly don’t let things go.”
In the spirit of never ever letting go of another romantic encounter, Rhodewalt decided to start documenting them. A few weeks ago, she created an Instagram account dedicated to Philly’s missed connections — at least, the ones posted on Craigslist.
Rhodewalt, a social work student at Penn, adds her own spin to the missed connections, purposefully crossing out words to turn them into found poetry. Then, she posts them to her account, appropriately named @foundphiladelphia.
“I think everybody has experienced a missed connection, whether or not they’ve written one,” Rhodewalt said. “Everybody knows what it feels like to have this fleeting thing.”
Ever since she was a little kid, Rhodewalt has used writing to express herself. She’s got more time now, in the summer break from graduate school, and she’s been writing even more. It came naturally to her to turn Craigslist posts into found poetry.
“There’s something already poetic about them, these missed connections,” Rhodewalt said. “It’s this idea of finding another person, and finding the poetry in what these people are writing.”
Her found poetry explores themes of fear, longing and modern intimacy. For example:
the other day you did nothing
You know they were scared because
don’t deserve you
“Most of these posts start out as a long shot,” Rhodwalt said, “like, what are the odds you’re going to read this?”
Sure, it’s probably rare for the Craigslist posts to result in an authentic, in-person connection — but it’s not impossible. Rhodewalt said a friend of hers actually met someone in Portland, Oregon after posting their own missed connection.
After reading so many missed connections, Rhodewalt can say one thing for certain: their tone is a lot different than other forms of modern romance.
“Comparing Tinder bios to the way people present themselves in these Craigslist ads, it’s so earnest,” Rhodewalt said. “They’re really pining for them.”
“And then Tinder is like, ‘420 friendly bro.’”
Just a few weeks into starting up the Instagram account, Rhodewalt has taken her work into the real world. She printed out a handful of copies of her favorite missed connection — one from a community garden in Powelton Village — and hung them up there.
“I really liked the geographic component to it,” Rhodewalt said. “They become these weird little frozen moments in time.”
Perhaps one day, the right person will stumble upon the right Found Philadelphia post, and Rhodewalt will have brought together two real people from the online realm of missed connections.
But that’s not necessarily her goal. Truth is, missed connections are just plain entertaining.
“It’s this weird, authentic longing for somebody you don’t even know,” Rhodewalt said. “This is what people experience while trying to find partners or relationships in the modern era.”
“As alienating as the world can feel, it’s nice to know other people know what this shit feels like.”