I’ve been binge watching MTV’s “Catfish: The TV Show” for a few weeks now. (Yeah. I have no life.) It’s a reality show about online relationships.
To “Catfish” someone is to lure him or her into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.
What fascinates me about this program is the level of suspension of disbelief that people are willing to engage in when looking for love. They can be bobbing in a virtual sea of red flags, but prefer that state of denial to being all alone in the world. I kind of get that, actually, but it still makes me sad.
This show allows these couples to meet for the first time, and the results are usually heartbreaking. Almost always, at least one of the people is not who they claim to be. People often steal photos of younger or more attractive people off the internet, and use them to create fake profiles. The real person will often be older or fatter or even a different gender. And of course, a lot of married people use cyber relationships as a way to cheat without “really” cheating.
Also, people tend to make themselves appear much more successful in life than they actually turn out to be. It’s amazing how many people actually believe that professional models have to resort to cyberspace to find a mate. I mean, come on, now. Seriously?
Of all the episodes I’ve seen so far, though, the one that made the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up was Season 2, Episode 9: Artis & Jess. (Spoiler alert!) “Jess”, who appears to be a sexy young lady, turns out to be a really scary, mentally ill, and very angry man with no moral compass whatsoever. I thought that episode was going to end in violence, to be honest. I mean, this is a very, very bad dude. And he played with this guy’s emotions for 5 months.
That’s the tragic thing about catfishing. The sociopaths who engage in this practice do not seem to grasp that there are real people with real feelings involved. Usually these people are very lonely and very much in need of companionship and compassion. They are the most vulnerable among us, and the most susceptible to victimization. The most outrageous catfishers are the ones who reel people in and then extract money from them. That’s just wrong on so many levels.
So, imagine my horror when I was casually looking at the search terms that people have recently used to come across my blog, and one of the ones I found was, “image of a nice girl for Facebook”. That made my blood run cold, because I have, indeed, posted a few images of myself on this blog. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to use a photo of an overweight 52 year old woman to create a fake persona, even if I am quite a catch, but there you have it. Someone out there is looking to deceive. I just hope they didn’t settle on my image to do so. I’d hate to think that somewhere in this world there’s a lonely person gazing at my picture while having their heart broken.
Rule number one if you really want to make sure people are who they say they are: Video chat. Or, barring that, at least have them send you a photo of themselves holding a sign with your name on it, along with the front page of today’s newspaper. There are just too many sharks swimming amongst the good fish of this world.
Guard your heart. It’s a precious thing. And once it’s broken, it’s never the same.
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