Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The eHarmony Experiment

Lonely is the standard on the prairie. People who enjoy life out here are usually capable of being their own best friend. They are often creative and comfortable with who they are. Pioneers, who began life with horses for transportation, fire for heat, cooking, or light in the darkness, and no communication except for the mail, were strong and self sufficient in a way I can only imagine. What made life fun was that they traveled it together.
I found this old photo in a box under the stairs and I am not sure who this happy couple is, but the background is very familiar.
Electricity, telephones, radio, television, highways, cars - now with four wheel drive, and computers have improved life on farms. We are able to launch from GriggsDakota and go anywhere we choose. Even winter cannot slow down the virtual world and seldom gets in the way of actual travel plans. Families can thrive on farms and in small towns. Isolation is becoming an outdated stereotype. But for singles, life can still be lonely. Robbie is a recent college graduate and working as a coach at a nearby high school this winter. In the summer he works on the farm with us. He is planning a teaching career and hopes to combine coaching and farming in the mix. Shortly before Christmas, he found himself single. That means he broke up with his girlfriend, he has never been married.
So, when Robbie learned that eHarmony would allow a free trial month of membership, I encouraged him to sign up. Social networking seems to be the way of the future. In many ways, the future is now. We use Facebook, Twitter, and blogging as a way of communicating with the outside world. With the obvious exceptions, eHarmony did not seem that different to him or to me. After a month of membership, this is the general analysis.

Social networking on computers is very easy. Much easier than meeting people face to face and trying to talk. People are comfortable and eager to please. You only see the imperfections that are allowed to show. This would not surprise any writer, editing is a process of edification. People in their twenties and even early thirties have been raised since Kindergarten with computers in their home and classrooms, so the virtual world is a comfortable place to relax and socialize.
He talked online to eHarmony veterans who had many experiences to share with him. One woman told him of driving hundreds of miles to meet a man who had, she learned, posted another guy's photo on his profile. When her date walked in, he took one look at her and said, "Oh, you're too good for me!" then left. That was the end of the face to face meeting and she had to drive hundreds of miles back to her home. Robbie realized how important honesty is to the process.

Interestingly, some of his matches were women he knows. In one case, a college friend, in another a family friend, a third was a friend of a friend. All of these women would be fine as a dinner date, but being a realist, he knows they are looking for magic and there is no magic to be had between himself and any one of them. Delete, delete, delete. That was easy. There are also women looking for perfection. He will never be a doctor and a six figure income is not his top priority. It is good that they are honest, though. Delete, delete, delete. My analysis of that is they are not lonely enough yet. Delete, delete, delete, delete, delete ... Luckily, he can't delete me, I'm real.
Often we choose to see the beauty of a blue sky and that is a good thing. You must stop and remember, there are clouds in this picture.

Overall, Robbie found that online social networking is not very much different than meeting women in any other setting. Meeting someone is a trip into uncharted territory. EHarmony has questions and filters that assure that by the time you meet, you will have enough in common to enjoy a couple of hours together. It is a reasonable way to escape loneliness and eat a good meal or see a movie.
When the eHarmony experiment began, my perceptions were the television commercials I had seen. They seemed ridiculous to me. Kissy, huggy, ecstacy. I doubt the credibility of that scenario. However, I realize that if you are comfortable with the social networking scene in general and willing to be genuine, you can meet interesting people through the website. Robbie enjoyed meeting, in a virtual sense, many interesting women. He met, in an actual sense, a couple of interesting women. He has not found a soul mate through the site. So much of that has to do with personal chemistry. That would be a lottery win and although someone wins every lottery, it is a long shot. But isn't that what life is all about? You pay your money and you take your chances. Go ahead, buy a membership. It is so much better than being lonely on the prairie.  And Valentine's Day is just around the corner.

eHarmony is a Registered Trademark, protected by US patents.

1 comment:

  1. I prefer meeting a random guy on the airplane and marrying him to Eharmony. But if it works for Robbie I'm all for it. :)