This past weekend I caught a marathon of the MTV show Catfish. For those who aren’t familiar – Catfish is a term that refers to someone misrepresenting themselves online and having another person believe they are something they are not. Basically being lied to and strung along by a stranger. To be catfished means it’s being doing to you and to catfish someone means that you are lying to them. So it goes a little something like this. Boy meets girl. Girl is beautiful. They exchange pleasantries and then begin to speak, exchanging pics for a varied period of time. Boy wants to video talk with girl. Girl says her phone/computer/laptop/Skype doesn’t work and never works…for three years. But they keep in touch sending pictures and becoming each other’s support systems through the good, bad and ugly times in each other’s lives. They profess their love for each other but are still unsure if who they are speaking to is actually “physically” the person they say they are. Then they call Nev and he comes and does detective work and finds out BOY/GIRL is either not the person in the pic OR is the person in the pic but is in involved in a relationship. Got it? Good.
I watched a few episodes and I found myself entranced and during a couple of them, and I don’t want to come across mean or anything I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. But I got to thinking about the catfish phenomenon and what it says about our society as a whole. When the internet first came out, my parents AOL and we all had our own profiles. My friend and I bored and curious which are never a good combination, used to get online and go into chatrooms to chat with people from all over the world. The internet made the world a smaller more accessible place. Suddenly you could interact with people from all over the world. But often and I am slightly ashamed to admit this (Kinda) but we catfished people. We created alternate personas, created crazy stories about who we were and yes we even stole pictures and sent them professing we were the people in those pictures. We were in H.S. so dont judge too hard. While it wasnt a constant activity of ours we eventually abandoned it, as maintaining that level of a lie was too time consuming. I did in later years meet people who I met in person and actually became lifelong friends with. Even met a boyfriend or two. So I am slightly confused as to how in 2016 people are being catfished. With the invention of Face Time, Skype, video talking apps, smartphones and laptops etc we can actually see people and and have them verify who they are. So again it baffles me that people can go 3/4/5 years never skyping with a person they claim to be in love with. It seems a bit crazy. But on a deeper level it says volumes about our society and the deep need people have to feel a connection to someone even a phantom voice coming from the ether. But on a deeper level it also speaks to our superficial need to be loved but not just anyone, by the right type of person as well.
There is a certain psychology about catfishing; it speaks to the advantage of beauty. None of the people who were catfishing selected a picture unless it was of someone they thought was universally attractive. Physically they were specimens that they KNEW would grab hold of anyone’s attention and that was why that person selected to use that image to represent themselves. A few of them verbalized it, without actually saying it verbatim. They didn’t feel they themselves were attractive enough for someone to love them or to grab hold of another person’s attention and hold it. They knew that that face would get them the attention they wanted. On the flip side, there were people who because this person they felt they were speaking to was so attractive, they went the distance. Ignoring all common sense for the infinitesimal hope that that image they saw was ACTUALLY the person they were speaking to and what it jackpot it would be. There was a time before everyone had images of themselves saved in their smart phone when you had to describe how you looked or had to scan in a grainy image to prove you were who you said you were. But more than that, you could actually have a conversation with someone that was real. Sometimes sitting behind a computer screen, people are bold. They allow themselves to BE the person they always wanted to be, without physical judgment and have someone call them attractive or beautiful if they aren’t. To actually talk to someone and get to KNOW them from the inside and not be distracted by the outside. Nothing wrong with that. Beauty does not dictate some level of superiority. Alternately, you could very well be that attractive person who doesn’t want to be deemed vapid or conceited because of your beauty and use the internet get away from that pigeonhole. OR you could be a vainglorious person who sees an image of a beauty and is determined to capture their heart ignoring all sense and sensibility. In catfish, I saw so many proclamations of love and longevity, but when the person did not turn out to be who their picture indicated them to be, professions of love flew out the window. The anger at being lied to outranked the shining personality and giddiness expressed beforehand. So if it was love, what happened to it? Where did it go? Are we only in love with an illusion and not the reality? If a person stated everything they said was true, the only thing not real was the photograph — what is the issue? Perhaps it was embarrassment that caused them to leave the situation alone or perhaps I am too much of a romantic but love is a term we use too frequently and can disintegrate with shallow disappointments. But the fraudulent representations can leave a bitter taste and promote people being closed off, not trusting that people are who they say they are. We are already so guarded, that catfish further drives us away from the best parts of meeting people online. But caution is necessary, especially when we are professing love to a person who is unknown. I just cant see continuing on a “relationship” with someone who you haven’t spoken to,haven’t met, and is shady about revealing who they are. But if you are open about WHO you are and allow someone else to be genuine as well, we could possibly discover that there are beautiful people around who us, we we have probably been ignoring because they aren’t as attractive as we require, which is sad.