Over the past several years, the term ‘catfish’ has grown in notability and notoriety. Even celebrities like Iggy Azalea and Kate Gosselin have fallen victim to catfishing. But the effort to create an entirely fake new online identity takes a serious time commitment—so why do people even bother?
Catfishing as Revenge
There are many reasons why people decide to catfish others. One particularly upsetting reason appears to be revenge. Spurned lovers, those suffering unrequited love, ex-friends or frenemies, and even neighbors with too much time on their hands have been reported as catfish. Faking an online identity is practiced all over the internet including social media, dating sites, and online marketplaces like Craigslist and LetGo. When exacting revenge, a cruel catfisher can use information they already know about their victim, and parlay this into playing on their affections. The victim may be surprised that an online stranger can have the same taste in music, quote all their favorite movies, and deftly carry on fascinating conversations. This can bolster a sense that the relationship (whatever form it may take) is important or “meant to be,” making it all the more painful for them to realize it was all a carefully-constructed facade.
Catfishing as an Alternate Reality
The act of catfishing allows someone to digitally live the life of their dreams, and garner the attention that comes with it. It’s as if they become the protagonist in their own beautiful narrative where they can then play any role they choose. As such, catfish often paint themselves into compelling stories ranging from quiet success, to enviable glamour, to heart-wrenching tragedy. All options engender the catfish to their audience. The romanticized stories of their lives can attract victims longing to be a part of a fascinating, if mysterious, story of their own.
Catfishing as Passive Aggressive Desire
A catfish may go about courtship in a rather cowardly way and decide to pursue it online behind the guise of another identity first. This can either happen because the catfish is too shy to directly pursue their object of interest in the first place, or because they’ve found themselves in an unrequited love affair. Catfish can believe that if someone has expressed a lack of interest in dating, that if that person really knew them, that opinion would change. So they embark on the involved process of becoming the person they feel would win their victim’s affections behind the safety of a smoke screen.
Red Flags of Catfishing
- Unusually hard, if not impossible, to get on the phone
- If they do accept or make calls, there is often an unusual, notable lack of background noise (because their friends and family IRL won’t understand why they’re carrying on a secret identity)
- Will not share exact address details
- Might not Skype or Google Chat with you
- Never show up to meet in person
The MTV show Catfish that helped to put catfishing on everyone’s radars has actually thanked Spokeo for helping them catch so many catfish, since it allows them to find people’s real identities using a phone number or basic contact info. If you think you’re being catfished, try entering the person’s information into Spokeo to see if they are who you think they are.