“Catfishing” made its way into our language about 2010 and it has nothing to do with fishing poles and worms. It basically means someone is pretending to be someone else online by creating fake social media profiles, using pictures from someone else’s account, and trying to lure unsuspecting men and women into a relationship in order to gain money, sympathy, or a hookup. Catfishers can be considered a form of internet predator, depending on what their motives are. Some people do it out of loneliness or boredom, while others have revenge or darker motives in mind. Most often they are intent on tricking people into emotional or romantic relationships for whatever reason.
The term itself comes from the movie documentary ‘Catfish’ that was released in 2010 (there is also a TV series of the same name/concept released in 2012 and still shown on MTV). In the movie, the story of Nev and his online “girlfriend” Megan are documented on camera and she is eventually discovered to be completely opposite of what she had presented online. She was an older woman and mother who had created this young, vibrant social media profile to engage in an emotional/sexual online relationship with Nev.
Although there have been questions as to whether the film is an actual documentary or more in the fictional realm, catfishing is still an issue for many people online. Dating websites such as eHarmony and Match.com have become a more popular and socially acceptable way to find a relationship. People are also reconnecting with old friends and lovers through social media, so the Internet is a viable way to find someone. So how do you tell if you are really talking to an attractive, interesting person or if someone trying to catfish you? Here are five red flags that should make you apply the brakes if you are looking for online love.
Most of all, if someone appears to be engaging you in subtle manipulation this should be a red flag. Everyone will be trying to put their best foot forward on social media – good photos, cute stories, and so on because we all want people to like us – but if there are no candid pictures, no family pictures, no goofing around or “look at my pet cat” photos, that person may not be real. Some perpetrators create their ideal self online in order to achieve something. Why do people do it? Psychologists believe that the reasons may be rooted in a behavior called the online disinhibition effect – online personas are anonymous and can be without any social or moral code guiding them. Some people take a great deal of pleasure in deceiving others, especially online.
If you are truly curious as to the reality behind the persona, you have the option of finding the person in real life or hiring a private investigator to do so before you get any more emotionally involved with your online girlfriend or boyfriend. It’s much safer to hire a private eye to do the legwork in cases such as these. According to Manhattan private investigator Darrin Giglio, an investigator can run a full background check on a person, including their marital, financial, and criminal records. Giglio’s company can perform in-person surveillance to record what the person actually looks like so that you can verify that who they say they are, they really are. Always proceed with an abundance of caution when it comes to online dating or relationships and bring in the professionals when necessary.