Guest Post: Have We Entered A “Catfish Culture?”

dating scams, online dating, reporter and girl, jon and sabrien dating, catfishing, manti te'o, guest blogger, online relationships, online frauds

It was a story that rocked the news. When linebacker Manti Te’o and his Notre Dame Fighting Irish took the field to play Alabama University in the BCS National Championship, he would play the game in honor of his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, who recently died from a tragic battle with leukemia. It was the sort of love story that inspires Disney movies. There was just one problem — none of it was true.

Te’o was duped by what is now commonly known as a “catfishing” scandal, an elaborate hoax that uses a fake social media persona to trick the victim into a deceptive online relationship. Though Te’o considered Kekua to be his girlfriend, he’d never actually met her in person because she was actually Roniah Tuiasosopo, the man behind the online mask.

The scandal happened eight months ago, but popular shows like MTV’s “Catfish” keep the concept in the news and relevant to our culture. Since the incident with Te’o, several professional athletes came forward with their own catfish stories proving that the scam commonly happens to people across the United States. The data on just how many people are catfished each year is inconsistent, but reports pop up all over the country. So are we really living in a “catfish culture?”

MTV’s “Catfish”
Coincidentally, just a few months before the Manti Te’o story, MTV launched its newest documentary series “Catfish,” which covers the same topic of victims falling into relationships with false online personas. The show is led by Nev Schulman who follows a potential victim searching for the persona on the other side of the online profile and eventually confronting them face to face. Most of the time, the perpetrator turns out to be a farce and the victim experiences public humiliation and embarrassment.

With a successful first-season run, “Catfish” is now in its second season and sharing more ridiculous attempts at fraudulent online relationships. But the show is treading dangerous waters by creating a “‘Teen Mom’ effect” in which viewers start to glamorize what they see on television. The issue with “Catfish” is that the consequences of the hoax are not always negative.

In one of the first season’s first episodes, a woman undergoing hormone therapy to become a man created a fake Facebook account to start a relationship with a woman whom Schulman was following for that episode. When the woman finally confronts her online “boyfriend,” she accepts the person on the other side and the two start a genuine relationship together. Imagine, catfishing can lead you to your soul mate.

Legal Consequences
Catfishing isn’t just a cute prank that might work out; it could actually put you behind bars. An 18 year old from Rutherford, New Jersey, is charged with making false statements to a U.S. official after he allegedly created a fake teenage girl named Kate Brianna Fulton online and reported her missing to an American embassy, reports. The accused, Andriy Mykhaylivsky, created the fake persona to catfish a male classmate of his and could now face up to five years in prison if convicted.

Catfish Prevention
With the growing number of incidents, prevent catfishing in your own life in the following ways:

    • Observe details behind any social media account for authenticity, including age of the account, number of friends/followers and amount of pictures.
    • Use Google’s “search by image” feature to see if a person’s profile picture belongs to a different (and more authentic) account.
    • Employ an identity theft protection service like Lifelock to help prevent your own name from being used by others trying to catfish.
    • Ask to meet. If the person on the other side is authentic, they’ll likely say yes. If they’re resistant, it’s a red flag.

Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, or if the situation seems too good to be true, it probably is. Skepticism is your best friend in protecting your heart and avoiding romantic devastation.

28 thoughts on “Guest Post: Have We Entered A “Catfish Culture?”

  1. When my ex broke up with me I told him I felt catfished! I think the advice applies to real-world relationships as well as online ones. If something seems too good to be true… I do love that show, though.


    1. Wow, thanks for sharing April. That is true, it doesn’t have to be online with an unseen person. Swindlers exist in real life in your face, and they sweet talk you out of everything you own.

      But at least you’re no longer in that unhealthy place.


    1. Well no, the person does attempt to get money. like, “Oh I would love to meet you but I need moeny for a train ticket to travel” or “I’m in bad ways now, I’m getting evicted and my internet will be cut off…”


  2. Great post! As for the tv show of Catfish, I’m not into it as much as I was the first season because of that “teen mom” effect that you talked about. I wouldn’t be surprised if many people on there are now faking their stories for their 15 min of fame.


  3. Catfishing sounds like those spam emails that ask for money for good causes: both hurt people psychologically and/or financially. It shows how, as you said, being careful and looking out for something fishy going on are important. Thanks for getting word out about this and for liking the post on my blog.


    1. I guess it happens more than we know it. Even some celebrities are coming out saying they have been scammed. So yeh, not a lot of people come forward, because its embarrassing and there’s not much remedy.


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