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The peculiar snow-day psychology of the Craigslist ‘blizzard buddy’

(Craigslist/The Washington Post)

It’s an urban blizzard tradition as hallowed as Seamless and weather tweets: Each and every time a snowstorm rolls in, singles flock to dating sites to find a “blizzard buddy.”

Craigslist, as per usual, is overrun with classifieds seeking “blizzard fun,” “Juno blizzard girlfriends,” or less SFW variations of the same. Dating site Zoosk logged 48 percent more profile views and 71 percent more first messages in New York than on a typical Tuesday. Lady-friendly dating app The Grade was even more dramatic: It saw nearly 3.5 times as much activity in New York yesterday as it had the previous Monday.

We laugh at these stats, of course. We revel in the regular round-ups of crazy Craigslist blizzard ads — 410 have been posted in New York, as of this writing.

But when you think about it, there are few things quite so deranged as inviting a stranger over before a “historic” storm. Should the power go out, or the streets become impassable, you’ll be stuck splitting your emergency provisions with some Internet weirdo, matching him kale chip for kale chip, loaning out extra sweatshirts and arguing over which Netflix movie to stream.

Of all the times to go on an online date, the time when you could end up stranded in a heatless, unlit apartment seems like the least wise.

“It’s the same impulse reaction as jumping on Tinder right before New Year’s Eve or a co-worker’s wedding,” explains Paul Brunson, a professional matchmaker beloved by Oprah, of all people. “We hate being alone in situations where it seems as if everyone else is enjoying the company of their significant other.”

Brunson continues: “When it’s storming outside and you’re stuck in your apartment, the last thing you want to do is scroll through your Instagram looking at pictures of couples enjoying their downtime together.”

This is, in other words, a classic case of FOMO — the jokey acronym for a real form of social anxiety, first coined at Harvard around the same time that Facebook was developing. “Fear of missing out” has previously brought you Fall Boyfriends, “Instagram agony,” and that corrosive irritation you feel whenever your friends tweet about something really cool. But research suggests that loneliness, boredom and a working Internet connection tend to exacerbate the feeling — which means, for New York’s homebound, Juno is basically the perfect FOMO storm.

“[It’s] just an excuse for lonely people to connect over the internet,” one Craigslist-ing New Yorker said.

That’s certainly obvious in New York’s “blizzard buddy” posts, at least. Sure, you’ve got the usual flock of one-night stand solicitations and other casual lewdities — but there are also a whole lot of sweet, oddly innocent entreaties that speak directly to this whole couples-enjoying-their-downtime fantasy. A 28-year-old on the Upper East Side offered beer, coziness and a full day of movies. A 29-year-old in Brooklyn promised Blue Apron and a Broadcity marathon to his “snow angel,” should she only appear at his door. (“Yes, this is sincere,” the man said by e-mail. “I have received many, many responses.”) Rarely does a post fail to allude to hot chocolate, cuddling, fireplaces or some combination of the three.

“Snow days are as fun for adults as they are for kids,” the Brooklynite said. “It’s a little break from the social norms.”

Or the idea of a break, at least. Of the blizzard buddy seekers I spoke to, all were entirely sincere in their postings, and most had chatted with interested women or men. But nobody had actually cuddled with a stranger.

“I think it’s mostly bored people locked in the house who probably have no intentions of going outside or opening their doors for a stranger,” one man said.

But home alone, surfing Facebook, “liking” all those couples’ charming snow day selfies? Even if you never planned to act on your FOMO, the fantasy was at least intriguing.