To catch a CatFish
This post has taken me a little longer to write than anticipated. However, I needed to ensure that I attended to my feelings of vulnerability before sharing my experiences.
The last time I wrote for this my online dating study series, I explained that Match.com was the dating site/app that I would be trying out for the first month. I ended the post with the hint of excitement that I had begun chatting to somebody I quite liked… Our messages back and forth intensified in frequency within 24 hours and after the third day, our conversation moved to WhatsApp. This transfer was actually under my instigation as I became sick of the app sending me an email to notify me of his reply, as well as the app “push” notifications. The app also would often fail to load latest messages. If I was critiquing Match.com, I would suggest improving the app’s functionality which may encourage users ongoing activity.
We seemed to have things in common but not to the degree that I ever experienced suspicion. Having communicated online for years, both for work and pleasure, I believed myself to have a healthy level of awareness of the pitfalls of this form of dialogue. Upon reflection, the eagerness of the regular messages should have been my initial warning. If there is a disadvantage to positivity and gratitude, this is surely it. Due to my growing belief in the unwavering benefits of being grateful and to a degree practising positive regard towards others, there is unfortunately space to be blind-sighted and risk of being taken advantage of. Focusing on the positive and having gratitude is great but one must still have their eyes wide open and their wits about them. After all, not everybody has your agenda!
I think I was probably drawn in by the complex story that was being fabricated. Also in a way, by embarking on online dating we are automatically allowing ourselves to be partially vulnerable. The nature of looking for a potential partner, means we are admitting to ourselves and others that we seek to fill some kind of gap in our lives. Therefore although the story I was fed was believable, I had also predisposed myself to the likelihood of believing it.
Consciously or not, people are likely to go into online dating with a personal agenda and interpret the communication with others to fit their narrative. In this instance, the story was externally validated with photos and videos. I am ashamed to admit that I found myself fabricating my own future story with this individual in it and feeling euphoric about it! They were after all, ticking boxes for the qualities I desired in a partner. It all felt real for me and there wasn’t hesitation from them about meeting up or even video chatting. The fantasy bubble only became stretched when I became impatient and curious, wanting to see a video of him speaking. “Give me 20 minutes” was the last message I received…
It was a new sensation that I experienced. As the minutes passed and I slowly became aware that something was wrong, the fantasy that I had allowed myself to build and believe began to unravel. After 30 minutes, I messaged, it wouldn’t deliver. I went onto Match.com app and I had been blocked. Then my bubble bursted. I felt like such a mug! I felt ashamed and I felt concerned about the use of my photos. Will my photos now be used to trick somebody else? Luckily I was not exploited financially and when they asked where I lived, I kept it vague. My pride, confidence and trust has definitely been damaged though. The past week I have felt myself analysing our communication and finding inconsistencies which I should have spotted. I have researched a little about this behaviour and spoken to an expert. From my layman findings, I have come up with some tips for spotting a potential Catfish.
🔶If you have an online presence which can easily be found via Google, ie you have a website. On your dating profile, do not use the same photo that is on your website. A Catfish may Google to find out more information about you. By re-using a photo from your website, you are making it easier for them to find you.
🔶 On the contrary, Google them! If they have told you about their profession, see if you can find their name or picture on a company website. You can now search Google with photos and the results will show similar photos with links to websites.
🔶 Keep your conversation on the app for as long as possible. These dating apps can be a pain with notifications and their clunky functionality but just try to put up with it. In the long run it's better than sharing your number with a stranger.
🔶 If and when you decide you want to take your chat off the app, take advantage of the video call function first which most dating apps now have. Video chatting a potential date may feel daunting as first but surely “butterflies in the stomach” is expected when embarking on soul mate searching.
🔶Of course, in this day and age most people will share photos when online dating. On some apps there is the option to share photo temporalily. This means the other person has one look, then your photo disappears.
🔶To validate if the photos and videos people are sending you are actually them, ask for photos or videos which indicates the time of day or weather (only works if you both share time zones and live relatively close).
🔶 Search for them on Facebook or Instagram. Better yet ask them to befriend you. Of course people can have fake Facebook and Instagram profiles too but these are easier to spot. You can look at the longevity of them and at whether they have many legitimate friends and followers.
In the week since my experience, I have reflected on the possible reasons one may engage in such behaviour. After the initial shock, I felt wary and I will admit that at times my mind leapt to the worse scenario. What if this person tracks me down and wish to harm me or my life? What if this person posts private images of me to people I know etc? I think radical assumptions such as these have been bred firstly from tragic extreme but rare cases of abduction, torture and in some cases murder that the, sometimes hypochondriacal media has reported. Then also the fictional narrative that is conceptualised to make engaging reading or watching. Coincidentally, I watched the reasonable new Netflix drama ”Clickbait” this week. Without spoiling the program for you, the notion I realised is; most people seem to embark on Catfishing as a form of escapism from the mundanity they feel for their life, instead of possessing the focused intent of malice.
The desire to fabricate a more interesting, favourable existence compared to ones reality, may be even more appealing in the current pandemic due to the lack of ability and resources to satisfy our hierarchy of needs. Abraham Maslow conceptualised in pyramidal form, that self-actualisation was unachievable until the fundamentals of human requirements, the physiology and basic needs were met. During this climate, many of us have had all of the tiers of our need’s pyramid challenged. From facing half empty supermarket shelves, to being gravely warned against physical contact with our friends and family. Not to mention our severely controlled and limited mobility. If the highlight of your week has been a walk to your local shop, who wouldn’t want to fictionalise their life?!
If you have experienced potential Catfishing or revenge-porn, this website\PDFs may help:
If you would like to learn more about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:
To watch Netflix’s Clickbait: