October 26, 2022

BEARD | Anonymity and Missed Opportunities

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If you have an Instagram and are a Cornellian, you probably have run the gambit of loosely affiliated Cornell instagrams. They range from club accounts such as @cuairmae or @cuabs for example, all the way to the outspoken @bigredvirgins. One such account that strays towards the latter side of the big red social media landscape, is @bigredmissedconnections.

In a nutshell, it caters towards Instagram-using Cornellians by providing them with a public anonymous forum for publishing opinions, giving truth to their desires and pining for a cute classmate from afar. that they missed the opportunity to speak to. Some posts are sweet and some are hyper-sexual, but all deal in missed opppurtunities. An unspoken word here, an awkward glance there, these nearly daily posts in black and white are an archive of chances not taken. The account is a database of the hundreds of times a person thought one thing but did another. 

In a way, I love it. As a liberal arts major who has indulged in history and anthropology courses, it is a veritable gold of a primary source. It illustrates a microcosm of campus culture. Love sought after, love beginning and sometimes the tears shed over a love ended. In all fairness of course, love is a bit of a stretch. Some of the more distasteful posts include phrases like “pound town,” “bang” and “have my kids.” You get the idea. But, at the same time, one can imagine that polling our Cornellian forefathers would elicit somewhat similar responses. Think what you want, but I doubt being a 20-year-old in the 1870s made you inherently more refined. 

Yet, despite this continuation of collegiate hormonal tradition, I also have misgivings about the anonymous musings on @bigredmissedconnections. There is a reason the word missed is featured prominently in its handle. These are all thoughts that remained thoughts and so many of them are painted with a shade of regret as well. Each little black square is an epitaph to what could have been; whether that be a relationship, a wild fling, a “mid” Saturday-night hook-up or simply a friend. 

Maybe this is over-dramatizing a silly instagram account. Certainly, restraint is good. As semi-adults we learn and practice that daily. I would agree that the post, “Who’s the brunette on the equestrian with the fat a**” deserves to remain locked up in the confines of a person’s pleasure seeking amgdyal. For god sakes, don’t ever lead with that. Yet, in spite of this, many of these passing fancies aren’t so crass. And they wouldn’t remain as regrets if the thinker had the courage to be a speaker instead. 

So what’s my point? This isn’t meant to be an overly philosophical analysis of an anonymous online confessional, but rather the power of spoken word. We all deserve the same chance at happiness. Yet, if @bigredmissedconnections can be taken at face value, it would appear that so many Cornellians are wilfully closing the door on their chance at some more marginal happiness. They sit in class thinking about approaching a potential new friend but then the class ends and they take to Instagram again. Screaming into the void over and over and over again. 

To the disciples of @bigredmissedconnections and all those suffering from the pangs of regret, I implore you to speak up. You’re here for four years and four years only. What’s the harm in putting yourself out there? Take a chance, say hello to the boy in your lab class, the cute barista or the cool chess player in your dorm. It doesn’t have to be with any degree of romantic intent. Making friends and meeting people requires a voice just as much. Speaking your mind and making a fool of yourself is better than letting the thought pass you by and living with the concerns of what could have been. And as for @bigredmissedconnections, don’t give them free content. 

Brenner Beard (he/him) is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached [email protected]. Agree to Disagree runs every other Friday this semester.