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Catfishing…an epidemic?

Meaning of the term Catfish The term Catfish is a relatively new term that our society uses. We use the word Catfish to describe online hoaxes where someone falsely represents themselves on the internet, due to various new forms of media such as chartrooms, Facebook, online dating, and so on. Catfishing has become an epidemic. Although this kind of identity deception has been going on for years, this is the first time a term has been created to describe the act.



The Origin of the term Catfish The word Catfish was created to explain online deception by use of a fishing metaphor. In the article Who coined the term Catfish   by Aisha Harris, Vince Pierce describes how the term came about.

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 catfish will keep the cod agile. And there are those people who are catfish in life. And keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh and thank God for the catfish because we would be droll, boring and dull if we didn’t have somebody nipping at our flesh.Although the metaphor is somewhat bizarre, it is still fitting and catchy.

Catfish Documentary The Catfish Documentary was created by  Yaniv “nev” Shulman and his Brother Ariel. Nev developed an online relationship with a girl named Megan from Gladstone Michigan. The two became close through Facebook. The documentary consist of Nev being filmed by Ariel Shulman and Daniela Torrico on his journey to “surprise” Megan. After a plethora of lies and excuses by ” Megan” we learn that Nev has been Catfished by a women named Angela. Angela confesses that she was using pictures of a family friend to pose as Megan, this revelation left Nev perplexed. The documentary ends with a silver lining because Nev and Angela remain friends on Facebook. There is skepticism about the authenticity of this documentary, many people feel that it was staged because nobody could be this naïve. Whether the documentary was genuine or not, it still was still very entertaining and drew attention to a real phenomenon that occurs.

Catfish the TV Show The documentary received such great reviews that is resulted in MTVs reality show Catfish. The show consists of Nev Shulman acting as a middle man for online couples that have never met. He orchestrates an awkward meet up between both parties in an attempt to expose a potential Catfish. Similar to the documentary, there is debate about authenticity of the show. Between the documentary and the TV show, the term Catfishing has become a widespread phenomenon.


Why would someone create a false identity?

Psychologist Thea Hartley believes that the Catfish suffers from an attachment disorder. She says that all human beings have a need to feel secure and to be loved by another person. The normal person seeks this type of affection in natural ways like meeting someone, dating them, and becoming physically intimate with them. She suggests that the Catfish was most likely neglected in their childhood hence never really learning how to have an effective relationship.

“The Catfish feels that they are so unattractive that not even their mother truly loved them, they may feel that no one else ever could…therfore they invent a false identity, with a false profile, pictures, and background, the more fantastic the profile the better. It feeds the desire to be attractive, successful, and sexy.”

The psychology behind the victim

Similar to the catfish Thea Hartley suggests that the victims might have an attachment disorder as well. She says that the victims often have low self-esteem and find themselves to be less attractive then the pictures of the fake pictures. The victim often projects all types of expectations on the catfish and becomes delusional. They’re so infatuated by the fantasy that they end up turning a blind eye to tips that they are in fact, being catfished. She gives us a short test to see if one is vulnerable to being a catfish victim. The test is 6 questions and if one scores 3 or more one is more susceptible to being a victim. I took the test myself and scored a 3 out of 6 which is somewhat alarming, but also helps explain a situation a got myself into a month ago.

Personal experience

I chose this topic because I had a similar experience happen to be about a month ago. I am on an IPhone app called Tinder.  This app is a very successful app where men and women are matched solely based on looks. It is accessed through Facebook where guys and girls have the option to show 1 to 5 pictures of their profile pictures of themselves and the opposite sex has the option to either “like” or “dislike” the person’s photos. If there is a match Tinder puts both parties into a mutual chartroom where they have the option to communicate. This match can only occur though if both parties “liked” one another. I find this app to be creative and useful because it maintains a level of anonymity in the sense that one doesn’t know if someone “disliked” their photos.




About a month ago I ended up meeting a girl named Nicole on the app. When we initially matched I was very excited because she looked like a model in her profile picture. We began to communicate through the app and then via text. We had a great deal of chemistry and shared many mutual interests. It was apparent that we both were attracted to one another due the various exchanges of smiley faces and emoji’s  and we eventually agreed to meet for coffee, and it all went down hill from there. When I walked into the Starbucks I was shocked at what I saw. I was starring at a girl who looked exactly like Nicole except for one difference… she was about 70 pounds heavier than the girl in the picture!!!! I was extremely taken back by the whole experience and I must admit that I felt deceived. In retrospect, I should have realized something was up because there were some warning signs that I seemed to neglect such as, her unwillingness to become Face Book friends. Although some may consider this to be a weak example of a Catfish I believe that this is a fine example. This is because Nicole deliberately deceived me through the use of anonymity on the internet. She used the privacy settings on Tinder to only allow me access to 1 of her pictures when she was able to show 5 pictures.  And in typical Catfish fashion she made excuses as to why we could not be Face book friends until after we met. She was clearly aware that she looked nothing like the picture she used on Tinder, and actively took measures to protect this reality. The only difference is that the picture technically was her but it was most likely 3 years outdated. One could even make the argument that the physical appearance between the Nicole and the picture was so distinct those she mines as well have used a picture of a stranger.



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