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The Bitter Lemon: Why catfishing is still happening

Recently, MTV premiered season five of Catfish, the show that’s become synonymous with online dating failures.

Catfish was introduced to the world in 2010 as a documentary, starring photographer Nev Schulman.

The film followed Schulman as he indulged in an online relationship with someone across the country, after “meeting” on Facebook.

In the film, his friends are not so sure the woman is truthful, so they do a little lite investigating.

One of their first finds is that the MP3s she’s been sending are ripped from YouTube videos featuring someone else.

Schulman continues the relationship and makes plans to meet his then-girlfriend, despite obvious doubts.

What he ultimately discovers is that he’s been sexting a woman in her late 40s, who is married with children.

Watching it is part-awkward and part-devastating. There is an underlying sadness to Schulman’s relationship – the woman eventually admits she continued the lies in attempts to escape her everyday life that was riddled with hardship.

Many critics still question the truth of the documentary. After all, how could a young, smart, tech-savvy guy fall for these obvious tricks?

But those are often the same questions asked after an episode of Catfish: don’t these people see the obvious red flags a mile away?

No, they don’t. Why? Because they don’t want to.

While I haven’t been catfished in the traditional sense, I’ve certainly been tricked into believing ridiculous lies from the one I love.

Because of instances such as these, I’ve also undergone years of therapy.

I have learned that when a person is hurt emotionally, it’s obvious from the outside, and there are people built to see those wounds and prey upon them.

A confident person, standing tall, is going to spot the red flags and they’ll walk away from the bullshit.

But a heartbroken person, sitting in the dark will do anything to see the light. Nothing is too good to be true to someone who needs a lifeboat.

I’ve watched Catfish the movie, and all of the seasons on TV. For starters, I think Schulman is super sexy, but of course, I also like seeing the dynamic of these online relationships.

I’ll admit it, when they announced season five was on its way I thought, “How are these people still getting catfished?”

But, after watching a few of the recent episodes, I got to thinking about fate.

And the truth is, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think these people were catfished at just the right time in their lives. In fact, the timing is essential to making the lies work.

The usual scenario is this: after the catfishee gets clued in on the false relationship, they confront the catfish and often discover the real reason behind the lies.

The reasons are usually incredibly sad: previous abuse, failed relationships, death of a parent, troubled childhood, etc.

And while these are not reasons to make fake online profiles, it adds context for the heartbroken victim.

This leads the victim to pick himself or herself up, cut their losses and find the strength within in order to move on. Most of the time, the victims quit online dating for good, and say they have found joy in other ways: through work, family and friends.

In other words: they’ve taken it upon themselves to drive their happiness and not left it in the hands of complete strangers.

Catfish the movie taught us that catfish (IRL) are placed in tanks to keep cod agile during their long ship ride. In other words, it’s what’s hiding in the shadows that keep us under the sun.


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