Plenty Of Fish: Why Are People Still Getting “Catfished”?

May 10, 2014  |  

Admittedly one of my favorite guilty pleasures is MTV’s Catfish. If you aren’t familiar with the show (or the term for that matter), it was inspired by one of the show’s two hosts Nev Schulman who fell in love with a woman on-line and once meeting her discovered she was not the person in her profile picture. Since his disappointment, him and camera man Max Joseph have made it their personal mission to unite those who have found love on-line in person in an effort to prove that people’s profile pictures and personalities match up with who they actually are off line.

During the first two seasons, viewers witnessed everything from friends posing as potential lovers to save their besties from partying their lives away, to men fronting behind female porn star pictures baiting men who they believe are breaking up happy homes. And although we know MTV is no stranger to scripted reality, you can tell through the occasional force fed lines that there are real feelings behind these folk’s Facebook statuses and that even if they’ve seen season after season of on-line frauds they still choose to believe they can find true love via wi-fi.

First off, there are some things that no matter how much 4G you have should not be done online: medical diagnoses, purchasing a vehicle and falling in love to name a few. I find it hard to understand that people want to be in love so badly that they choose to stay blind. It’s one thing to be in a relationship with a serial cheater that you continue to take back, but at least you know what that person’s cheating behind looks like in the flesh. People are proposing marriage and sending money to people who have created a complete false network of family and friends whose profiles they all manage to maintain. At that point it’s not just a complete lie of a love affair. It’s a complete lie of a life. You might as well date Siri.

I admire Nev and Max. Namely because Max used his own experience of being played to help empower others, but also because they found a way to make a hit show doing research that anyone with a cell phone signal and common sense could do. I know people who do more research on a new restaurant than on who they’re developing feelings for. These guys aren’t doing any Law and Order type investigations. Most of their revelations come through a combination of Youtube, Google and scanning some Facebook friend lists. Which makes me believe that it’s not that these folks being catfished don’t know they’re being played, they don’t want to know. When your relationship exists on-line it’s easy for you to imagine it’s whatever you want it to be, especially if that’s limited to “IMY” texts and believing that your on-line boo is doing big things because he’s too busy “in the studio” to come meet you. Real life relationships are hard. They force you to confront the fact that you’re not dating a Tyrese look-a-like who’s in the running to be the next Grammy-award-winning producer. You’re dating a regular dude that’s spends his days making commission off of cell phone sales and that’s ok because  at least what you have is legit and you can pick his face out of line up if necessary.

In the original Catfish film which documented Schulman’s love lost on-line story, the meaning behind the term “catfish” is explained:

“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.”

But the guests on this show lately seem to be anything but on their toes. It seems that everyone wants to be in love but no one wants to do the work and I don’t feel sorry for them.  I’m not against on-line dating, but I am against abandoning all common sense for the right to change your status to “in a relationship.” It’s not fair to everyone who’s running in the romance rat race going to countless happy hours, speed dating and being set up on blind dates from hell facing rejection in the face one insensitive, self-absorbed jerk at a time.

Maybe there’s something to be said about dating the old-fashioned way. In a world of Skype, Face Time and Google there is no reason people should still be getting played in on-line love. Why waste time trying to reel in a catfish that you thought was rainbow trout when you could be out there swimming and seeing exactly what you signed up for?

Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a  passion for helping  young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health.  She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about  everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.



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