While I sit here on a Wednesday night watching the newest episode of "Catfish," I find myself asking, “Why in the world are people still allowing themselves to be ‘catfished?’”
For the few people who still may not fully understand what the term "catfish" might mean - outside of a literal fish of course - it is the process of being “lured” into a relationship typically by the means of a fictional person or persona: hence, what started the idea behind the indie documentary and now popular MTV reality show “Catfish.”
When the documentary was first released in 2010, I thought it was such a crazy concept that people actually lie about their identity in order to create relationships over the Internet. Nev Shulman, who is the creator and host of “Catfish: The TV Show,” experienced this first-hand in his documentary when he met a woman he fell for online; however, she wasn’t who he expected her to be at all.
I can somewhat understand how in 2010 “catfishing” may have been easier to do. The Internet was lighting up like wildfire and Internet dating sites and social networks were popping up everywhere. The excitement of making friends over the Internet and having people engage in your statuses, photos etc. was something new and it became an obsession to some. However, the year is 2016 and “Catfish” just started its 5th season and people are still falling for the same old tricks. Their “online significant other” doesn’t have a webcam, they continuously cancels plans to meet or they use any other excuse in the book. Then the person being catfished is absolutely devastated that they wasted six months to three years only to find out that this persona was made up by a person who was bored by their own life or by someone who wanted to be “someone else for a while.”
Don’t get me wrong, I am as unhealthily obsessed with “Catfish” as the next guy, but how do we keep making the same mistakes that cause this reality show to be starting its 5th season? Especially when Nev and Max show their viewers on every show ways to investigate on our own.
For those that may feel that they are in "committed online relationships" but they aren’t sure if the person they are talking to is who they say they are, I have created a list of red-flag warning signs to look for:
They consistently say they don’t own a computer with a webcam so they cannot video chat. Hello, it's 2016! If you don’t own a laptop or computer with a webcam, you more than likely own a smartphone with a camera on it (spoiler alert, you can indeed video chat on a smartphone). If not, you can easily run to your nearest Target or Walmart and purchase a webcam for a whopping $6.50.
You make plans to meet up, and they never show up or bail at the last second. This one isn’t to say that they aren’t necessarily who they say they are because they fail to show up as scheduled, but you shouldn’t be waiting for someone who refuses to meet you. Not only can it show warning signs for them not being who they are, but it can also show warning signs as to a bad relationship as well.
Their photos look “too good to be true.” Yes, models and celebrities are everyday people just like me and you, but if someone is “hitting you up” on Facebook as Lil’ Bow Wow (and yes I’m looking at you Keyonnah from season two), think twice and do your research before you truly believe you are dating a celebrity – especially if that celebrity refuses to meet you.
They have a low number of friends on social network accounts. Typically, a “fake profile” will only have a handful of friends on social media. Take the time to notice if they have friends commenting on their photos, statuses etc. You can even take it a step further by looking through their friends list to see if they have any family members with the same last name as them. “Creeping” isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you’re using it to uncover the truth.
Do a “reverse image search” on their photographs. If their photos are popping up on numerous other profiles, get out now! You can find a great site to do a reverse image search HERE.
The idea of meeting someone online and finding out everything you know about them is false is absolutely terrifying, but that is not to say that making friends or finding love connections through social media or dating sites is wrong. Be careful and understand how to use the Internet to keep yourself out of sticky situations. As for my Wednesday nights, I will continue spending them watching Nev and Max on “Catfish” helping those hopeless romantics that, even through all the red-flags, still hope that their online significant other is the real them.