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Want love at first sight? Try Wal-Mart Add to ...

Ah, even with the calculated mechanics of Internet dating, the Web still proves the world is full of hopeless romantics.

Kijiji and Craigslist may be the domain for used bikes and tattered sofas, but it’s the “missed connections” that speak to the human condition – posted online by people wondering if they locked eyes with their soulmate on campus or the bus or at first aid training and missed their chance at a fairy tale romance.

A cynic may say there’s a creepy stalker aspect, or at least a strong whiff of desperation, to a fair number of the postings – is every glance really a potential hook-up ? Really, what are the chances that the “gorgeous redhead” you passed by the frozen food sections in the grocery store is going to happen along your anonymous Kijiji post?

But stranger things have happened – it’s far closer to a Hollywood rom-com than clicking through a catalogue of posed pictures and doctored-up dating profiles.

According to a new analysis published in Psychology Today that delved a little more deeply into the hopeful love-seekers, Wal-Mart is the spot where many singles say they experience “love at first sight.” A cataloguing of missed connections on Craigslist found that the big-box store was the most popular location in 15 states. (The data were American – based on the most recent 100 postings from each state, and thus more fun than science. But Canadians aren’t immune to the spark of Wal-Mart romance either.)

As Salon reports, aside from the aphrodisiac that is apparently Wal-Mart, the data also supported an veritable “orgy of stereoptypes.” Californians, for example, felt the jitters of possible love at the gym. The citizens of Kansas were shot by Cupid at McDonald’s. New Yorkers exchanged hopeful glances on the subway. The study, Salon reports, doesn’t explain one truly puzzling finding: why the most popular spot for “missed connections” happened “at home” for the resident of Indiana.

It’s mostly men posting these ads – prompting Andrew Sullivan of The Dish to dub the analysis the “saddest map in America.” The most depressing, and truly disturbing, finding of all is the trend revealed by age – for 40-year-old men the analysis reported that “missed connections” happen most often at strip joints. (For 30-year-olds, it’s at bars and for 20-year-olds, it was “ice cream stores.”)

What does this all say about us? Setting aside the cringe-inducing 40-year-old and his stripper fantasy, perhaps it’s a sign that in the age of texting and e-mail, singles have lost the power to actually speak to each other – and go home regretting it. Ultimately, it’s a map of loneliness.

Consider this Calgarian, who posted just this week: “These ads crack me up every single day,” he writes. “I read them at work and it kills me how funny they can be.”

Except then he gives himself away: “I’m forever alone so if you do read these ads hit me up.”

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Follow on Twitter: @ErinAnderssen

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