Friday, November 21, 2014

Letter From Langdon: Lonely Hearts

11/06/2012

A city dating service just doesn't work well in the countryside. So lonely hearts in rural America look to places like FarmersOnly.com for that special someone.

Birds of a feather really do flock together. Human birds, too. That means things like wealth, politics, religion, or position in society determine who we want to cozy up to. 

But the smaller the community, the harder it is to reach out and touch someone special.

In rural America it should be easy to spot an eligible farmer out standing in his field. It isn’t. The cultural, political and religious divides here still run wide and deep as the murky Missouri River. And the choices can be meager.

Good news is, for wistful socially-isolated lovers living where the sort of people we seek aren't always available....there's always the Internet. For aging baby boomers the time is now. 'Tis the season. As lonely winter nights get colder, online cuddling begins to heat up.

Cold as lonely can be, more than a few on the Internet have been burned by rekindled old flames — and they aren't all singles. For example, I just heard about one married man who spent all his money jetting to distant cities to follow up on Internet conquests.

That’s not all. A few years ago a couple I knew broke up when she found a new guy in a WWW chat room. And a friend just told me that his sister-in-law, who works as a counselor, is dealing more all the time with people who've reconnected to old friends and classmates on Facebook, leaving long-term mates behind.  

With country populations in decline in some places, rural people (even the single ones) looking for someone special are on the rise. Rural life expectancies in the 70's in some places lend urgency to the search as falling populations and rising ages make pickings mighty slim. 

Bottom line:

Opportunities for small town dates beyond high school are as thin as pond ice in November. The best way around that is by going online to expand the size of one’s community. That's what the 30-something son of a farmer friend of mine does. Googling "online dating" turns up a huge number of opportunities. There's Zoosk, e- Harmony, Match.com, and one for singles over 50 called OurTime.

The one thing they all have in common? They aren't free. All allow a sneak peek at possible matches. But to go beyond that you have to pay the preacher and show them the money.

The biggest problem for my friend's son, however, is the rural/urban divide. He generally finds dates in the big city. But these relationships don't usually last long. Why?

It's because of culture shock between urban, and the less-than-urbane life of a country boy. His working hours are varied because he farms. Weekends aren't always free. Forty-hour weeks are what farmers call "vacation." 

The cultural divide can be just too great. 

Because of that, matchmaker websites tailored strictly to a rural clientele are becoming more popular even as rural becomes more obsolete. The world is bigger, but it’s all still rural.

The friendliest, easiest-to-use rural matchmaker site seems to be one established about 7 years ago called FarmersOnly.com. National Public Radio did a feature on a young dairy farmer who met his wife on FO. That spread the word, and since then the site has been upgraded and improved. It just keeps getting better.

Don’t be fooled, FO wants your money, but it does offer free bare-bones access without perks. Daters who want to establish regular contact with each other will eventually pay the fee, or stay free! 

The one thing that all sites have in common is that pictures are important. That special someone has to see the person they're “talking” to. No one would buy a pig in a poke. Especially not a farmer. No matter how good you make yourself sound, without a picture it's all just talk. 

Some people put up pictures of dogs or horses instead of themselves. (Personally, I like a nice set of calves.) Animal pictures instead of a self-portrait may not be the best approach if you really want to meet someone, and a little truthfulness isn't so bad. But...

Online lookers need to look good. Putting up the right picture can make all the difference.

One word of caution about cell phone photography: People with the best chances of connecting spend time getting good, flattering pictures of themselves. Others just squint at their cell phone and snap away. Think about it. Which one would you want to look at?

One tip: If you choose the cheaper way and snap a pic in front of the bathroom mirror, at least clear the clutter off the vanity. Like my daughter says, "Too much information."

There's a series of questions everyone answers about marital status, children, smoking, drinking, and all the other details of life that sort you into the right group. Other than pictures, anonymity is encouraged through an online ID and web mail on the site. 

Let's think about identity for a minute. If your name is Robert Jones, you were born in 1948, and you want to remain anonymous, the best choice for online identity is not Jonesbob48.  

I toured FO awhile, marveling at the size of the community...and the drawbacks of cell phone photography. Everyone posts the type of person they hope to meet from age, to build, and religious belief. And most of their wishes reveal if not the person they are then the person they hope to be.

It's all about personal growth. And for guys like me it would look pretty hopeless. 

Maybe DY should start a site called BaldHeadedOldFarmers.com. If it should come to that, sign me up. 

On FarmersOnly men can search for women, women for men, women for women and men for men. Or subscribers can just scroll through page after page of pictures. Sightseers who see one they like click the picture for a better view and a profile. 

That brings up an important lesson. 

I’m the curious type, so I looked at both male and female profiles. It was only later that I learned that FO members receive lists of other members who are looking at them. 

I found this out when I discovered that the retired heterosexual U.S. Marine I looked at had been looking back at me. I'm all about girls. Nothing personal. I was just checking out his tattoo. 

I really hope in his former life that he wasn't a sniper.