Catfish, if you don’t already know, is the new MTV show that has provided entertainment and insight to the complexities of online relationships. The digital age has bypassed if not superseded the physicality of human interaction. The dating game has somewhat new rules to abide to.
catfish [kat-fish] verb
- To pretend to be someone you’re not online by posting false information, such as someone else’s pictures, on social media sites usually with the intention of getting someone to fall in love with you.
The premise of the show is very simple; Nev Schulman and Max Joseph, the hosts, get contacted by people all over the America who fall in love with individuals on the internet. Nev and Max play medium between the two, making phone calls, doing their own “detective work” to determine the reliability and veracity of the catfish’s identity. The result is never what they expect.
Watching the show in the living room with my brothers is always interesting. We are always divided on how the relationship on each episode will turn out. As the details unravel, some transparently dubious from the start while others not so easy to decipher, we usually place bets on the outcome. I’m usually the pessimist tool laughing at these ‘suckers.’ Those that have been duped often respond in overt anger and sadness at the realisation that none of the details about their partner that they’ve been fed for months or years have any base in reality.
The catfished are ordinary people who find comfort in online relationships, confiding in their lovers about intimate details of their lives and sometimes volunteering personal information. This goes on over months at a time culminating in romantic feelings developing. As someone who is always on the go and heavily invested in social media, it is easy to feel a connection with these individuals that you share jokes and chat with regularly. As humans we long for connection, as they say no man is an island and the internet has not in any way closed us off but amplified the need to find people who share our beliefs, sense of humour, aspirations etc.
Sometimes we need to chill and not be so heavily invested in alternate worlds and enjoy the moment. We’re doing too much.
The ease of putting up a profile and posturing makes catfish all the more alluring. People on the show, by their own admission, don’t set off to harm anyone. It is usually because they are bored or need an escape from their dreary lives. In some documented cases it’s an issue of jilted exes with malicious intent. The dangers of the internet are boundless particularly for people in committed relationships where temptation is at every click of a tab. Over and above that, the social network has been reduced to a popularity contest to who has the cutest kid, who has the flashiest clothes and jewellery, who has the best vacation, who has the poutiest pout etcetera etcetera.
An online persona can be easily hatched up, with every click you can mould yourself into someone you have always wanted to be or what you think you are on the inside. Whether conscious or not we tend to put our best foot forward with every post and chat message, denying the person on the other end a 360 degree look at who they are. Every picture in a perfect pose in our Sunday best, the cutest pout and the engineered surprise camera shot is a deception in its own way. So it poses a big question, are we all on the internet just like the people on Catfish, lying about who we are?