Catfishing is, unfortunately, not very uncommon. If you’re big into Internet culture, there’s a big chance you’ve interacted with someone who isn’t quite who they told you they were — or, quite possibly, that person was you. And if the charade went too far, it may have led to some pretty big repercussions.
That’s probably what Becca Schultz found out after she began presenting herself online as Ryan Schultz at 13 years old. While she began going by the fake name online to help further her career as a sports writer, she soon began using the pseudonym to harass other women online. The charade lasted eight years.
Of course, that’s not how Ryan Schultz began. He was married with kids. He was attending pharmaceutical school. He wanted to be a writer. Becca Schultz had known that a 13-year-old girl wouldn’t be taken seriously if she wrote about sports, but an older man would. But the more “Ryan” interacted with others online, the deeper he was caught in his web of lies. He soon began forming serial relationships over Twitter and harassing the other women who worked in his business.
According to a Twitter user named Erin, Ryan Schultz harassed her so badly at her job that he got fired.
I’m sure by now if you followed and/interacted with Ryan Schultz (rschultzy20) you have noticed he deactivated his account. You may also have heard that multiple women had come forward telling stories of emotional abuse and harassment leading him to be fired from the publications he was writing for.
I was one of those women. It was a hard thing for me to do because for a while I considered Ryan to be a good friend.
Last night, with the help of some other twitter friends, I discovered that Ryan Schultz was a catfish.
The persona was developed by a now 21 year old girl about 8 years ago in hopes that she could become a baseball writer. As you can tell, it spiraled out of control. There were a lot of holes in Ryan’s story and it didn’t take long for my friends and I to realize that so many of the stories we had been told (the wife, the kids, pharmacy school) was all made up. Unfortunately the only thing that was left that was real was the emotional manipulation and the harassment.
The Ryan account has been deactivated and the catfish has been confronted. Publications have been notified. The catfish promises this is over but myself and a lot of the people the account interacted with have a long way to go before this is over or us.
But Ryan wasn’t just abusive to his colleagues — he was also abusive toward the women he was forming relationships with. He became aggressive toward them and, according to some women, get drunk and berate them. He became what one woman called “aggressively horny.” Some women even sent him nude photos because they were worried that if they didn’t, he would hurt himself — or even them.
But Ryan was caught after he posted a misogynistic joke on Twitter last weekend. Women began tweeting about their own awful treatment by Ryan, which led some to take action and try to reach out to his wife. Except they found they couldn’t find anything about her online. In fact, a lot of things didn’t add up — Ryan wasn’t in any of the photos of his kids, his college didn’t have the pharmacology degree that he’d claimed he’d received, and that he had an awful lot in common with a girl named Becca Schultz.
By the time Becca was outed for being Ryan, she was already 21 years old; she’d been Ryan online for 8 years. She was just acting like what she believed a man was supposed to act like, she said. What had started as a career move had become an elaborate lie that she wasn’t sure how to escape.
“I tried a few times to just slowly back away, but I always came back,” Becca told Deadspin. “Those couple times I came back are the biggest regrets of my life, because that was probably the best and only way I had out until now.”
Becca’s story is a wild one, but it also says a lot about who we are as a society today. The fact that she believed she had to pretend to be a man to make it in the sportswriting world is sad but unfortunately understandable. The fact that she believed a man was supposed to act so abusively and aggressively is sad but unfortunately not completely inaccurate. And the fact that “Ryan” abused so many women who didn’t know how to come out and talk about it is sad but unfortunately incredibly common.