An Elegy for the Personals Section on Craigslist.org

A Death Announcement

The personals section on Craigslist has died. I found out almost two weeks ago from a long-time friend and collaborator. It went dark the week before and the New York Times wrote about its demise on Friday, March 23, 2018. The personals section is archived on the Internet Archives Wayback machine. Its first entry there in Minneapolis was November 3, 2002. On that date there were 28 total personals on the site; on November 28, 2017 is the most recent entry on the Wayback Machine, and the casual encounters section alone had grown to hundreds and hundreds of entries.

Is this a Loss, Personal or Otherwise?

What I will miss most about the personals is it was a place for frankness about sexuality and also a place where the emphasis was on the written word in an era where the primary emphasis on many platforms is visual communication such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook Stories. Craigslist personals ads were ephemeral and were a way to know what a broad swath of people were fantasizing.

Trafficking

Craigslist made the decision to close the personals because of a federal sex trafficking bill. Sex trafficking is awful to a magnitude that it is really hard to be aware of, to grapple with, and to confront. It was certainly happening on Craigslist, even in Minneapolis, for instance this example from an article in the Star Tribune or this one on arrests of potential buyers. Also see this article on buyers in Minnesota in general.

However, it seems unlikely that this bill will actually help victims though it will certainly move trafficking as well as sex work off of Craigslist. The radio show On the Media recently covered this new legislation, see the second segment, highlighting a variety of perspectives, and noting that there is no new funding in this bill to support trafficking survivors. Backpage is also now gone, not just dark, but seized by the federal government.

Implications for this Project

There are many ways I had wanted to extend my Open Letters to the Men of Craigslist art project. I had thought through using Craigslist casual encounters to crowdsource stories about Craigslist as a sort of ethnography of the site that I would integrate into an art project that extends the original installation and performances.

Apparently, I’m too late.

Links for Open Letters to the Men of Craigslist

Related Writings by Me

In Category: SOME DAYS

Alison Bergblom Johnson

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