There’s a Yale student looking for a girl who took a “glorious fall” in the rain and looked “cute” doing it. The incident is spelled out on a new social networking site that offers an anonymous forum for college students to find the people they have crushes on.
GoodCrush.com, a site that launched in February and is now available to students on more than 20 college and university campuses, features a “Missed Connections” page for visitors who don’t know their crush’s name, but hope they’ll peruse the GoodCrush message board.
The anonymous matchmaking site also lets students who sign up enter the eMail addresses of up to five students they have a crush on. Those students will get an eMail saying someone on GoodCrush wants to connect. If they register, create a GoodCrush account, and enter the eMail address of the person who invited them, then both parties are messaged and their names are revealed.
“We’re trying to bring people closer together in a way that isn’t currently done on college campuses,” said Josh Weinstein, who founded GoodCrush in 2007, when he was a sophomore at Princeton University. Nearly a third of the student body registered on the site within 24 hours of its launch.
“We want to combine the sort of online and offline social dynamics together,” he said.
GoodCrush has 14,000 members, and as of March 30, the web site had more than 6,800 missed connections. GoodCrush’s home page lists the “Top 10 Most Crushed” student members, determined by the number of students who have entered these students’ eMail addresses in their personal top-five list.
GoodCrush also manages an online chat site called RandomDorm, a service similar to internet sensation Chatroulette, which connects users to random, anonymous strangers for video chat sessions.
RandomDorm, however, only admits registrants with an “.edu” eMail address—the same requirement for GoodCrush members—and limits the community of potential chat partners.
Weinstein, 23, who operates the site from Manhattan, graduated from Princeton last summer after serving as student body president for one year—a leadership position that forced him to examine the controversial gossip web site JuicyCampus, where college students anonymously posted salacious and hurtful rumors and drew the ire of campus administrators and student governments.
Attorneys general from New Jersey and Connecticut questioned whether JuicyCampus was complying with state laws that prohibit “libelous, defamatory, and abusive postings,” and student government members at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.—where students lobbied to have the site banned from campus networks—said they were relieved to see JuicyCampus go under.
Officials at Tennessee State University cut off campus access to JuicyCampus before that site’s demise, owing to what university leaders characterized as expletive-filled screeds of sexism, racism, and homophobia.
“We definitely learned from the adverse effects of JuicyCampus, in terms of its impact on the real sense of community on a college campus,” said Weinstein, adding that some Princeton students asked him to ban the web site at Princeton. “We just waited for [JuicyCampus] to die, and not give it the sort of credence and legitimacy. … It was always going to be fringe and marginalized, and fortunately, the site died off and it was a flash in the pan.”
One of the lessons Weinstein and GoodCrush employees took from the JuicyCampus fiasco was constant moderation of user posts. Weinstein admits that the site’s motto, “Connecting student bodies like never before,” is a playful double entendre, but he pledged that unseemly content or rumor-mill fodder would be deleted from the site.
“In a lot of ways, JuicyCampus separated and divided student bodies,” he said. “And we’re ensuring that there’s cordial and friendly dialog rather than the inappropriate and malicious posts that were on JuicyCampus.”
In a note posted on JuicyCampus in February 2009, just before the site shut down, CEO Matt Ivester said economic realities doomed the gossip site, not pressure from student groups and campus officials.
“Unfortunately, even with great traffic and strong user loyalty, a business can’t survive and grow without a steady stream of revenue to support it,” Ivester said in his statement, adding that JuicyCampus had 1 million unique visitors every month. “In these historically difficult economic times, online ad revenue has plummeted, and venture capital funding has dissolved.”
Weinstein said the idea for an anonymous matchmaker web site originated in high school, when students at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan would post lists of their crushes on bulletin boards. More than 500 postings would hang from a single wall, he said, and the tradition was “one of the highlights” of the school year.
“It was just something everybody did,” he said, “so it became normalized.”
Corinne Gregory, an author and expert on social skills, said GoodCrush’s anonymity could be ideal for students too shy to approach a person they know from class, but any connections made via the web should be viewed skeptically until a relationship is established.
“If all goes well, it might be a fun way to explore a ‘crush,’ but with all these types of outlets and social sites, you have to consider the worst-case scenario,” said Gregory, author of the book, It’s Not Who You Know, It’s How You Treat Them, scheduled for release in May. “I say students should stick to their own social circles and work on building local, live connections rather than trolling out on the internet to see what’s out there.”
Using a matchmaker web site like GoodCrush might pay dividends for some students, but others will regret pursuing relationships in an anonymous online forum, Gregory said.
“Sometimes that’s a rock that’s better left undisturbed, because you can bet there’s potential for trouble,” she said.
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