I recently discovered the MTV show Catfish: The TV show.  Apparently, a Catfish is someone who poses as someone else online or lies about who they are in one way or another in order to lure people into relationships.  I actually ran into a psychopathic Catfish back in 2007.  He was trolling for attention, sex, fantasy, money… The truth is, I can’t begin to understand his psychology.  I only know that I will be happy if I never encounter another person as devious and sick as he.

The episodes of Catfish that I’ve seen haven’t featured anything as sick as what I encountered personally.  Generally, the Catfish seem to fall into a couple general categories:  1) The unhappy man or woman in a committed relationship, looking for fantasy and escape, and 2) Men and women who wish they were more successful, better looking or more exciting.

While I cannot imagine pretending to be someone other than I am, I can understand the desire to escape or present a “better” version of myself.  For instance, I used to post pictures taken at specific angles, designed to make me look thinner.  I got to be fit and it was fun and so much easier than actually working.

I also found myself living somewhat of a fantasy in that I was phenomenally social online and a virtual hermit offline.  I express myself best in writing so being on a social network provided me the opportunity to put my best foot forward: Kate 2.0, that was me.

Eventually, even the small alterations I made became a burden.  I wanted to be accepted in my imperfections.  Connection isn’t  real until it sees and loves fully.  I didn’t want to be a fantasy.  I just wanted to be me, full of imperfections but doing my best to be a kind and compassionate human.

One of the dangers of our cultural obsession with online media is that it tempts us to post only the best pictures of ourselves and it’s easy to white wash our lives, causing us to form incomplete connections.

I used to believe that online friendships were purer and more honest than offline friendships because they level the playing field.  It doesn’t much matter how we look or what we do for a living or where we live.  The thing is, those details do come into play and they’re very much a part of who we are.  When we alter them even slightly we’re presenting ourselves falsely in varying degrees.

I started out online only showing my feet and knees.  It was my thing.  Eventually, I began to show me but always in the best possible light and like I said, it truly bothered me.  It was a long process for me but eventually I came clean and said, “This is me and I’m nowhere close to being your fantasy.”

That gave me the courage to finally go out and meet people I’d known online for years.  I was afraid but I knew they weren’t expecting Kate 2.0.  Without exception, we clicked as well face-to-face as we had online, if not better.  It was a hugely freeing experience for me.

Back to Catfish.  Some of the most compelling stories I’ve seen have been stories of goodhearted, well intentioned people who were afraid they’d never be accepted because of how they looked.  In most instances, appearances didn’t really matter once they were revealed because people had formed heart connections.  The real issue seems to be dishonesty.  Nobody likes being lied to.  It erodes trust.  Better unattractive or dirt poor than dishonest.

Like I said before, I haven’t seen any episodes of the show where there were huge deceits like the one I dealt with in 2007.  Malicious, sick pretenses.  I’ve mostly seen average people who wish they were other than they are, looking for connection.

I wish more of us would get offline and back into life with all it’s challenges and imperfections.  I wish more of us would work to make honest connections and in the process accept ourselves more fully for the beautifully flawed people we are.

Finally, I think the escape element of online life is incredibly damaging and keeps us in unhappy relationships.  Instead of talking to our significant other we escape to a place of fantasy online where everything is shiny and easy.  I love that Nev and Max on Catfish always insist that people deal with their offline relationships before they seek to meet anyone from their online world.  They encourage honesty and courage.

May we all seek to be honest and courageous.

Have you ever met a Catfish?  In what ways do you “manage” your online image?  I’m curious to hear your stories.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by kev on October 11, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    I’m not aware of ever meeting a “Catfish”, yet it is entirely possible. I know of some groups of people that use different names and personas, but I’ve never directly been harmed by them. Social media opened me up to a world I never would have seen had I lived strictly offline. I came into it with no agenda, just looking to meet people. I am who I appear and like I live my life offline, I trust people until they give me a reason not to. I was and always have been honest. Honesty, as the saying goes, is the best policy. Nice to read your words.


    • It sounds like you’ve had a very positive experience online and I think you’re probably in the majority. I know the bulk of my experience has been positive as well. I would never have met some of the people I count as best friends (on- and offline) had I never ventured into social media. As to the icky stuff, it was a hard learned lesson in respecting my inner voice but that’s another story. Thank you for reading, Kev.


  2. Posted by David Fricke on October 17, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Everyone shows you who they are, you just have to believe it.


    • You said a lot with few words, David. Unfortunately, I still haven’t learned to believe people when they show me who they are. I seems I am predisposed to believe the best despite all evidence to the contrary. Eventually, I’m going to get this. :)


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