Imagine a stranger stealing photos that you have uploaded and using them as their own, and then using these photos to talk to people romantically online.

The digital age has provided great opportunities to meet new people through different social media’s and dating apps, which is a concept I have exploded in previous blog posts. We get to know a new person virtually through the use of digital text messages and specifically chosen profile pictures. From this, we build trust that this profile picture is definitely the person that you are talking to. We ask ourselves how could it not be? But what if the person you are talking to, isn’t who they said they were?

This is exactly what the internet now calls a ‘Catfish’, where someone creates a whole online persona with pictures of people who aren’t them, and use the internet to pretend to be someone else. Scarily, this isn’t uncommon either. The internet provides a facade for who we really are in many different ways, such as the fact that most of us on social media aim to present the best possible version of ourselves to look attractive and enticing, with the hope of an online social acceptance through likes. But, it also allows people to adopt a whole other identity.

The term ‘Catfish’ came from the producer of MTV’s Catfish series, Nev Schulman, who was catfished himself. The husband of the woman who catfished him was a fisherman, who created an analogy about a codfish and catfish:

“They used to tank cod from Alaska all the way to China. They’d keep them in vats in the ship. By the time the codfish reached China, the flesh was mush and tasteless. So this guy came up with the idea that if you put these cods in these big vats, put some catfish in with them and the catfish will keep the cod agile. And there are those people who are catfish in life. And they keep you on your toes. They keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh. And I thank god for the catfish because we would be droll, boring and dull if we didn’t have somebody nipping at our fin.”

Although that analogy seems quite positive, normally catfishing is a very negative experience, especially if you are supposedly romantically involved with a fake identity. In fact, there are many different types of catfish, which Nev depicted throughout the MTV series, to watch out for:

  • Revenge: Whoever is behind this catfish knows you in real life and could feel like they were wronged by you, and so is using a romantic relationship to manipulate and control you.
  • In-Love: This catfish knows you personally and has romantic feelings, however maybe too timid to show or tell you in real life.
  • Lonely: The internet allows for identity exploration and communication, however for someone who maybe isolated in real life due to many different issues, this maybe their only route for company and friendship. Although you may be sympathetic, it doesn’t excuse manipulation.

Those are three of the most-common reasons why someone would decide to ‘catfish’, but it is also notable to recognise the signs that you might be getting catfished during the process:

To conclude, if the internet has taught us, it’s that with great power comes great responsibility. It’s never a good idea to toy with someones emotions under a fake identity, and some way or another, it will always come out. Have you ever been catfished or know of someone who has? get involved in the comments below or get involved on twitter using the hashtag #LOR.

Finally, Happy new year! I hope everyone is having a lovely new year so far and feeling motivated to make 2019 successful! See you all again soon.