Imagine meeting a person who changes your love life. You two connect and find various common interests. Then you exchange messages on Facebook, and then it escalates to texts to one another. Describe what happens when you catfish. To only find out that person was lying the whole time. Some people turn to online dating because it is easier to connect with someone. The hype may be because it’s easier to search Facebook or dating sites for an attractive mate or that online dating sometimes works.
And then imagine finding out that “she” is really Richard, a 25 year old man. That is what the online world is called being catfished. A catfish is a person who creates a false identity on social media, pretending to be someone he or she is not, to lure another person into a romantic relationship, until that person finds out that he/she was being deceived.
It is crazy to think how the internet can facilitate a connection that allows an abundance of people to seemingly connect with one another so easily. The expansion of the internet has allowed social sites such as Facebook, to be used to help people find partners. Facebook posters can be displayed to strangers, as well as family and friends. Though in the past online dating was considered rather unusual, now it is common for many different types of people to look online for possible dating partners. In forming relationships, people want to know almost all the possible details about one another but when relationships begin online, it is possible for people to misrepresent themselves. Although it can occur on dating websites, there is a higher occurrence of someone catfishing another person through Facebook. There is a number of reasons why someone would want to display a fake identity online to deceive someone.
In his article, Romanian professor (Lucian – Nicu RĂDĂȘAN “Whether we are talking about revenge, loneliness or boredom, a large number of internet predators find various reasons to fraud their way onto the social network scene and in the hearts of unknowing victims” (Lucian – Nicu RĂDĂȘAN). Through research, people have found the traits someone who may catfish could possibly possess. As stated by Lu.H, those who are “high in sensation-seeking, and those who show addictive behavior toward the Internet” (qtd. in Seidman). When it comes to the societal aspect of catfishing many are against the thought of it happening and are left puzzled about why someone would go through all this trouble to deceive someone when trying to form a romantic relationship. Issues of low self-esteem and shyness are popular traits of someone who seeks to catfish someone online. In “Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters, Wood explains that self-esteem is based on how people perceive themselves as well as how they think others perceive them. Facebook gives users the “opportunity to recreate their identity. Given that it can only take a couple of minutes to create a fake profile with info about someone else, it encourages those to do so. In addition, Catfishing someone may offer a persona boost in confidence that they didn’t have before and as mentioned earlier it is allowing them to receive the attention they seek.
Granted, we use Facebook to reconnect with friends, some use it as a means to find a potential partner for themselves. In an article by Krystal D’Costa, an anthropologist who works in digital media, the author notes that “Social networking sites provide a rich research venue for people who are interested in getting to know someone romantically—and the information may be more honestly presented here than in online dating sites as we try to capture our lives through personal photos” D’Costa). D’Costa also found that “54% of online daters believe that someone else has presented false information in their profile”. With more than 50% of people believing someone is lying to them, catfishing is presumably gaining more momentum. Differentiating between misrepresenting yourself to someone and catfishing is critical. For instance, having a picture of you when you were in your 20’s as your profile picture when you are actually 30 and do not look like that anymore, can be seen as lying as well. Or even lying about occupation, or income but keeping other aspects true about yourself. Can these also be seen as catfishing? In other cases, some people will misrepresent themselves on social sites but their intentions are completely opposite as someone intending to catfish a person. In the case of a person who may use a picture from years they are attempting to jump start a relationship while a catfish lures someone into a relationship with the intent of lying and humiliating him or her.
If you were to ask someone whether they would catfish another person the popular answer would be no, along with you receiving a look of disdain. Most people don’t care for catfishing because it isn’t being done to them. The term catfishing is relatively new, but the act of it isn’t. A 2009 documentary called TalhotBlond focused on an internet love triangle. Talhotblond is a film about a teenage vixen (screen name ‘talhotblond’) who lures men into her web to only deceive them about who she actually is.
The idea of Catfishing has gotten more popular with the broadcasting of MTV’s weekly showing of Catfish: The TV Show. The show is a docu-series attempting to get people who have developed a romantic relationship online to finally meet in person. Each episode features different people with different stories. Viewers of the show will laugh at the gullibility of the person on the show while fearing this may happen to them as well. Portraying it as a negative aspect but yet there is a hit TV show about which draws in (?) millions of viewers. The TV show Catfish displays people are humiliated and sometimes left distraught of the person they “loved” is not who they are.
The issues of possibly seeking a romantic relationship through social sites as Facebook. Internet being a place for people to form relationships, whether from common interests and etc. With the ability of anonymity you may never know if the person on the other side is actually who they are portraying to be however the anonymity allows for users to be vulnerable to this type of deception. Many people are easily sheltered when online and are able to gain the attention they seek from others. Some people just need to take precaution in representing themselves and how they perceive others.
“CATFISH: DECEPTION ON THE INTERNET.” Interpersonal Comm 310 Blog. 6 Dec. 2012. Web. 28 Mar. 2015. <http://blogs.longwood.edu/interpersonalcomm310/2012/12/06/catfish-deception-on-the-internet/>.
D’Costa, Krystal. “Catfishing: The Truth About Deception Online | Anthropology in Practice, Scientific American Blog Network.” <i>Scientific American Global RSS</i>. Scientific American, 25 Apr. 2014. Web. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/anthropology-in-practice/2014/04/25/catfishing-the-truth-about-deception-online
Nicu RĂDĂȘAN, Lucian. “THE DYNAMICS OF IDENTITY BETWEEN DIFFERENT FORMS OF REALITY.” Cross-Cultural Management Journal XVI.2. Web. 1 Jan. 2015. <http://www.cmj.bxb.ro/Article/CMJ_6_14.pdf>.
Seidman, Gwendolyn. “Can You Really Trust the People You Meet Online?” Psychology Today. 23 July 2014. Web. 28 Mar. 2015. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/close-encounters/201407/can-you-really-trust-the-people-you-meet-online>.