A friend of mine discovered Country Living Singles just over two years ago. At that point, it was a small, private Facebook group, with around fifty members. The “About” section read, “We are a group of single folks, who enjoy laughing, and sharing memes, etc. to do so. There are many solid friendships in this group and it is a no drama zone.”
As college students, we were intrigued by what “memes” the middle-aged members of this group were sharing. So four of my friends and I decided to begin our longest-ever con: infiltrating the Country Living Singles community.
Contrary to what you might expect, we had no intention of trolling the members. Rather, we wanted to perform an in-depth character study. Our ultimate goal was to be able to mimic these singles to the extent that we truly became Country Living Singles ourselves. So we had our work cut out for us.
The only two questions that barred our entrance to the group were “What is your age?” and “Why do you want to join?” With a few keystrokes explaining our love for farming humor, we were all in.
Our arrival meant that five of the fifty-some members of Country Living Singles were frauds. We were using our real Facebook accounts, and therefore we were all just one click away from being found out as millennial city dwellers, so we had to be extra careful not to draw too much attention to ourselves. We laid low at first, studiously observing the existing members before daring to contribute.
We quickly found that the most popular “meme” format in these circles was pretty simple: any image (usually depicting nature or a beautiful woman), overlaid with an entirely benign and unrelated question. The appeal of the memes themselves was confusing until we realized that their real humor was to be found in the countless aggressively horny replies in the comments section.
After careful study, my friends and I all eventually fell into our roles. One of my friends played a man only attracted to MILFs. Another chose to portray himself as the ultimate fan of Brokeback Mountain. I decided to present myself as an evangelical Christian. The singles engaged with our posts and did not seem to take that much notice that we were college students who had never even stepped foot on farmland. In the space of a few weeks, we were successfully integrated into the community.
Mike is my favorite of the truly wild host of regular contributors to the group. I was first introduced to him when he posted this cryptic announcement, without any meme attached:
“You all my friends are the first to learn I made a deal and am going to move tomorrow and become the 1st resident in the Resurrection of a[n] old infamous and notorious GHOST TOWN.”
When prompted to give more information, Mike refused, saying that he absolutely couldn’t share any more details, aside from the fact that the town “has a very historical past with murders and stagecoach robberies.” When another member flirted with Mike, saying she might pull through for a visit and that he should ask the spirits when she would be arriving, he responded that “several people think they [the spirits] are very active and after all that happened today I think they don’t want new residents.” I was hooked on the mystery and clicked on Mike’s profile immediately to find out more.
Of course, all of Mike’s efforts to create intrigue were rendered futile by the fact that he had already changed his profile to reflect that he now lived in Gillette, AZ. With that mystery quickly put to bed, I went back to scrolling through the Country Living Singles feed. Yet once I had noticed Mike, I couldn’t stop noticing him.
Mike is, without fail, the first person to comment on every single post. In my mind, he is the ultimate Country Living Single: he is unbelievably succinct, unnecessarily sexual, and always active.
To a post that says, “IF YOU COULD SPEND A DAY WITH ME WHAT WOULD WE DO (Repost to see what you get),” Mike responded, “Each other.” To a post that says, “I have talents you can’t put on resumes,” Mike responded, “I’ll bet you do.” To a post that says, “It’s almost Valentine’s Day and I don’t know what to get myself yet,” Mike simply commented a selfie. No comment exceeds ten words, and every single one is left within minutes of the original post. The effort he puts in is superhuman—I don’t know if I’m the only one watching, but I think he deserves many more fans than just me.
An unexpected opportunity
Although silly horndogs like Mike are the driving force holding this community together, tame images and scandalous comments are unfortunately not the only content that the singles post. It probably will not come as a shock that the group is pretty homogenous—essentially every single is a White, cis, heterosexual man or woman, between the ages of 50 and 70, living on a farm somewhere in rural America—and pretty often, one of them posts something that I disagree with on a political or even human level.
Despite the explicit community guidelines asking them to not get political, they’ve posted pro-Trump content many times. Since Coronavirus arrived in America, they’ve shown themselves to be virulent anti-maskers. They regularly traffic in memes about women and members of the LGBTQ community that I personally find distasteful. Despite my misgivings, however, these posts have challenged me as a human in a way that I have found to be ultimately rewarding.
People often complain about the “bubble” of interpersonal connections in liberal cities like New York, or on lefty college campuses. Country Living Singles is as far removed from my Brooklyn-to-small-liberal-arts-school bubble as you could imagine—I’ve actually never met anyone in real life who fits the description of most of the members. Before joining the group, I had no real examples of Trump supporters in my life. Now, I have my favorite single, Mike.
Mike thinks Trump is funny. That’s not all I know about him, though. He is also interested in mysteries and loves pulling pranks on his fellow singles. He believes aggressively in free speech, and he was scared that his home would get “looted” in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. He loves nipples, and he doesn’t understand why he can’t make a move on a woman anymore without looking like a “perv.” For his son’s senior basketball night, Mike shaved the number of his son’s jersey into his sideburns in support. He doesn’t believe in making wishes on falling stars anymore.
He’s a real, human person. I don’t agree with him on many (many!) subjects, but after following his life story for close to two years, I can sympathize with him. Mike is a Trump supporter, and he’s not (expressly) racist; he’s a caring father, and he’s intensely creepy to women online; he doesn’t believe in peaceful protests, and he thought George Floyd’s death was an absolute tragedy. All these things can be true at once. I did not know that before joining Country Living Singles. And as painful as it can be to read yet another Mike joke about nipples, those jokes have influenced me to stop villainizing people across the political spectrum. For me, the inadvertent result of joining Country Living Singles was that my bubble was burst.
After we had spent many months undercover in the group, I decided to give up the act. Over the time I’d been involved, I had watched Country Living Singles quadruple in size, had seen the name (needlessly) change to “Country Living Singles With Humor,” and had gotten to know many members of the group far more deeply than I’d ever intended. It was time to say goodbye.
I knew that the Admins intended the group to be for singles, and expected you to leave if you found yourself in a relationship. With that in mind, I made my most incendiary post yet: a marriage announcement.
In the announcement, I claimed that I had recently gotten engaged to my MILF-obsessed friend after meeting online. I was sure that the singles would be furious at the post; in the photo I attached, it’s pretty clear that my friend and I are two twenty-somethings in a public bathroom, with (fake) shit inexplicably spread all over our faces. Surely this would out our secret, and we would get booted from the group.
Nope. None of my clues as to our true identities mattered; the community believed the post, and one of the Admins even said, “Congratulations you both can stay if you want.” They accepted us unquestioningly.
At this point, it’s been over two years since I joined Country Living Singles. So what have I learned from my time masquerading as a religious farmhand? Short answer: compassion.
These people are nothing like me. They live very solitary lives. They’re desperately single, and unabashed about broadcasting that fact. Their worries are entirely different from mine—they’re thinking about what to cook for their daughters, whether their crops will go bad, if they’ll ever orgasm in the presence of one of their online pals. I cannot relate.
Yet I’m constantly amazed by the depth of my connection to these people, and their connections with one another. Even Mike, who has absolutely no filter, has found both flirtation and friendship in this group. It almost brought me to tears when he voiced his support for a woman struggling to care for two young children, saying, “If it was easy everyone could do it you[’re] the best thing right now for those kids and you are more [than strong] enough to handle this.” I’m actually still rooting for him and one particular woman to meet up in person, despite the hundreds of miles of distance separating them. It wasn’t my goal to do so, but after two years of observation, I can confidently say: I care about the Country Living Singles. And I’m truly glad to have wormed my way into this community, because of all the ways it has helped me grow as a person.