Catfish are a serious problem in online dating. Catfish are people who pretend to be someone they are not online. They create false IDs in social media and dating sites in order to pursue deceptive online romances. They can string people on for years and apparently, have no remorse for their actions. They steal other people’s photos, even fake their gender. They go to great lengths to hide their real identity. Catfish can and do lie about everything.
Getting catfished is when someone is tricked by a catfish. This is such a common problem nowadays that filmmaker Nev Schulman made a documentary called Catfish about his own experiences getting duped by a girl he met on Facebook. In the film, he goes on a journey to meet his gorgeous online love in real life. Of course, Nev discovers she wasn’t what she presented herself to be. If you haven’t seen the film I recommend it. It’s a great cautionary tale with a shocking ending.
There is also Nev’s series Catfish: TV Show on MTV. Each week he features a different person and the online love interest they haven’t met in person. Nev tracks down the mystery online love and arranges a meeting between them. There is always an interesting twist. Sometimes the mystery love turns out to be the opposite gender. Rarely does it turn out they are who they said they were.
Another riveting documentary about being catfished is TalHotBlonde: Everybody Lies Online. This is about an online love triangle that ends horribly in murder.
Here’s how to avoid getting catfished:
1) First, stop automatically trusting everyone and what they tell you. I talk about the dangers of being trusting here. It isn’t a virtue to trust, it’s just plain stupid.
2) Get real about Twitter, blogging, chat room, gaming and Facebook “friends.” If you haven’t met someone outside the Internet, you haven’t actually met. Stop thinking of online people as “friends” when, in reality, they are barely acquaintances.
A friend is someone who will get up in the middle of the night to bail your ass out of jail.
Stop thinking you’re “dating” someone that you’ve only interacted with online. In order to be actually “dating” someone, you must first go on an actual DATE, in person like to a movie.
3) Be suspicious of everything your new online “friend” tells you.
- Google their name.
- Check up on what they claim. If they say their twin sisters died in a car crash, Google their names and look for their obituary.
- Have your online friend send you a photo of themselves holding a card with your name and the date on it. (Of course, they could photoshop this, make them take a selfie and send it right then and there.)
- Run a Google Image Search to see where else “their” photos turn up.
Then don’t be in denial when you find out information that doesn’t jive with what they’ve told you. Realize you’ve been lied to, and cut the phony person off immediately.
4) Pay attention to Red Flags. A huge red flag is when your online friend doesn’t ever want to meet in person. There’s a reason why they always have an excuse:
a) They are not who they say they are
b) They are married/living with someone
c) Or they don’t think you would like them if you two met in real life. In which case, you should trust their judgment. They know themselves far better than you do
5) Catfish tend to tell outrageous lies maybe because they are online. They figure, why not lie big? Their lies are a dead give-a-way. For instance, a catfish will claim to be a model, work for a major tv show, have cancer, or a family member has recently died of cancer, be in car crashes or be constantly traveling all over the world. Red flag waving here. No one has all these things happening to them.
Using this advice you can avoid the dreaded bottom-feeding catfish.
UPDATE 1/17/2013: Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o recently admitted to being catfished by a “girlfriend” he “dated” for three years who claimed to be dying—and later died of leukemia. Turns out she never existed.
Let’s define what “dating” is:
Dating is when you actually go somewhere with somebody in person. You can’t date through instant messages, Facebook comments, web chats, on the phone or texts.