Why We’re ALL Secretly Catfish

Filmmaker Nev Schulman has been trying to make the term “Catfish” happen ever since some hussy was less than honest in portraying herself online and broke his heart. One documentary film and a TV series later, he got his revenge and the vindication of people using “catfish” to describe anyone who lied about themselves online.

It goes like this: the lowly catfish toys with the fragile emotions of others by posting stolen pictures and fake info, and then lures them into their clutches.

There’s always a point in the TV show where someone is completely bewildered to meet the real Catfish in all their disappointing glory – they’re not a part-time underwear model financing their particle physics PhD with an inherited fortune from their Lithuanian grandfathers. Nope. They’re just regular people with poor coping mechanisms and a lot of faith that their victims don’t know how to use Google’s reverse image search function. It’s good TV.

Why We’re ALL Secretly Catfish
Catfish is like the modern bogeyman story of online dating.

The perils of the modern world, right?

But there’s a lot of room in the Catfish definition for, well …everybody else. Where do you draw the line at colorful embellishment and flat-out deception? Because I don’t know about you, but if my online dating profile was 100% honest, I’d be screwed.

Using a picture ripped from a stock images site is quite clearly an asshole move, but just about every human being online has chosen a profile pic that portrays them about 24.6% hotter than they are in real life. As long as we all get to tweak and curate our image online, we can just assume that we’re going to make it that extra little bit glossier than real life.

Catfish is like the modern bogeyman story of online dating – not only are we scared shitless we’ll encounter someone who’s not what they say they are, I think deep down we’re all a little nervous that we’ll be discovered putting a few too many crops and filters on reality.

We all love to see a liar called out on their lies, and Schulman’s show wasn’t successful for nothing. But as the online platforms we get to “express” ourselves on become more sophisticated, the gap between our ideal selves and the losers we are in the boring, pimpled flesh grows bigger and bigger.

Is it possible to be catfished …but without any malicious intent? Have you ever been tempted to put out a version of yourself that’s right there on the border of flattering and a flat out lie? Have you ever been seriously disappointed meeting someone off the internet?