Caught by a Catfish

catfishOnline dating. I must admit, I’ve never done it. It’s all a big mystery to me, and maybe that’s why the latest TV import from the US is baffling me even more. “Catfish” is a TV show that follows various couples who have met online and been in relationships for a few weeks or months, or in some cases years. It all sounds ok right? Met someone online, liked each other, got together. BUT the big difference here is that none of these couples have ever actually met. So how do you know that you’ve fallen for a real person? Or just a piece of digital-age make believe?

Nev Schulman is the creator of the show and the coiner of the term ‘catfish’ (to mean a person who creates a fake online profile). Nev had his own heart-breaking experience when he started chatting to a stunning girl online and fell madly, crazily in love with her. It was only after he’d invested his feelings and took himself off the market that he realised she was just made up. Instead of moping around crying, he decided to be constructive and made the whole episode into a documentary and uncovered the identity of the creator of his ‘love’. An overwhelming response from people who had been in the same situation pushed him to make a docu-drama series to serve as a huge warning to those who look for love online, and to help as many people as possible meet their lover safely in real life.

Many of the stories on “Catfish” seem to end in the meeting of an excited girl (or guy) with the partner of their dreams who turns out to be not quite what was expected. A beautiful model turns out to be a chubby loner, and a hot guy turns out to be a just-about-legal teenage girl (I KNOW RIGHT?!). It makes me wonder why people make up these virtual personas and forge a relationship with someone online. Is it out of lonliness and low self esteem? Or is it something more sinister? Do they like the idea of playing a game with someone’s emotions? Or are they ‘grooming’, looking for young, vulnerable people to lure in?

Though I’ve never experienced it, it’s not very surprising how many people meet their partners online and carry on to live in happy relationships. What is astounding to me though, is the number of people that seem to meet a guy or a girl online, commit themselves to this person, talk every day, tell each other everything, and yet have never met them. You have no idea who you’re talking to. To put yourself in a position where you are allowing yourself to be so open and emotionally vulnerable with another person who you don’t know, is just mind-blowing. I get that it’s easier to talk and open up through messages rather than face to face or on the phone, but there has to be a line somewhere.  The internet is still relatively new, and many haven’t grasped that what they do in the virtual world will affect their real life at some point.

To me, telling your entire life, all your feelings and emotions to someone on the internet, is like just stopping someone on the street and telling them everything. So don’t get caught by a catfish; you don’t know WHO THEY ARE! Keep yourself and your deepest feelings and secrets for your diary, and for the man who you fall for in real life.