The cats out of the bag

When I first heard the term ‘Catfish’ I remember being baffled that it was even a thing. When I finally got round to watching a couple of episodes of the show I was struck by how pitiful some of the catfishers seemed to be. I was honestly shocked and a little saddened that there were people who felt the only way to win affection was through such extreme levels of deceit. If only they had the self confidence to realise, if they could be vulnerable enough to show their true selves they would be better placed to meet someone who wanted them for all the wonderful things they no doubt had to offer.

Then it happened to me! This was many years ago and it wasn’t as dramatic as it is on TV. I matched with a guy on Plenty of Fish, we chatted for a couple of weeks and he invited me on a date. As I arrived to meet him, imagine my surprise when instead of the bald, suave man with a complexion similar to Will Smith’s that I was expecting, I was greeted by a man with a full head of hair and mahogany skin more similar to Eddie Murphy’s tone.

What did I do, I hear you ask?

Well honestly, to my shame, I didn’t call him out, I was young and far too accommodating. I continued on the date (we had dim sum, which he paid for), declined to kiss him when he tried to pull me aside as we got back to the tube station (yeah right!) and went about my merry way, resolving never to let that happen to me again. When I look back I’m almost impressed at his audaciousness. To use pictures that were so obviously not him and to still have the gall to turn up for the date, demonstrates a level of bravery (or delusion) I can’t say I’ve witnessed before.

Now over 10 years since the film first came out I believed (rather naively) that with all the exposure catfishing has, that the phenomena would’ve declined. Boy was I wrong!!!

I’ve recently signed up to FaceBook dating (yes FB has indeed gotten in on the act) and I was scrolling through my likes, when I happened across an attractive man apparently named Lamarr from Birmingham. I soon realised that Lamarr had in fact used the pictures of someone else, that someone else being YouTuber Derrick Jaxn (yes that guy, if you don’t know who ‘that guy’ is you can find a brief commentary here) someone who was trending on social media only the month before. And then a mere two days later I received another like, this time from none other than actor Jeremy Renner who plays Hawkeye in the Marvel movies! I shit you not it is literally that ridiculous out there!

Unfortunately not all catfish are as obvious as those deluded examples but they are getting a little easier to spot. My cousin has taught me a neat track where you can reverse google search the image which will usually bring up various other social media accounts using the same pictures. (Ridiculously good looking, muscled men tend to be quite popular surprisingly!)

Not only is catfishing still very much in fashion, it’s actually evolved. And I’ll confess I nearly spat my prosecco out when a friend of mine told me about an experience she had not too long ago!

Recently single after being in a long term relationship she’s making the most of her newfound freedom to pursue all of the delights that single life has to offer. She met a man on an app who was not shy about sharing both verbal and visual details of his considerable *ahem* attributes. Therefore when they arranged to meet to “get to know one another intimately” she was very much looking forward to witnessing him in all his glory. As you might have guessed from the overall theme of this post he’d been less than honest about his God given gifts, cue disappointment and awkwardness all round.

After a little research I discovered this was by no means a unique situation, and there are multiple millennial terms to describe it. Cockfishing aka Dickfishing aka Catcocking is according to Urban Dictionary “The act of sending a false dick pic that is bigger and less ugly than your own, with the goal of impressing a girl and hoping she doesn’t notice the difference.”

Well notice she did! And do you know what the saddest part of the tale is, she admitted that it was actually a decent size and if he hadn’t ‘bigged it up’ so much, they could’ve had all the fun without it being tainted by dishonesty.

Now weโ€™ve all emphasised our charms, cleavage enhancing bras, socks in the boxers, used a filter here or there, taken pictures from above (gotta hit them angles darling). But to steal someone else’s picture and pass it off as one’s own with the express intention of deceiving another speaks to something a lot more sinister.

Why do people catfish?

Researchers have found that there are a number of reasons people choose to catfish including boredom, feeling lonely, struggling with making social connections, and being unhappy with their own appearance. Some LGBTQ+ individuals also stated that catfishing was a safe way for them to explore questions about their own identities. In more extreme cases some use catfishing to exact revenge or to catch out those they believe are wrong-doers. Probably the most widely known reasons for catfishing are to scam others for financial gain, we’ve all heard the one about the Nigerian Prince right?

Whatever the reason for catfishing it seems one common thread that ties individuals who catfish together is that anonymity allows individuals to break the rules of social and moral codes that generally guide our everyday lives.

Another common theme that’s evident in most causes for catfishing is insecurity. If this is the motivator for catfishing, then we need to work towards achieving greater self acceptance, so that we’re not tempted to reject ourselves before we give someone else the chance to. Self acceptance is something we all need to continually practice and here’s a few ways how:

Make a list of all your positive attributes

As humans we have a tendency to be self critical, but counterbalancing criticisms by focusing on the things you do well can help to alleviate negative self talk.

Take care of your needs

I can’t stress how important it is to be able to identify what your needs are and take care of them, this may be through practising self care or effectively communicating your needs to those around you.

Practice gratitude

Each day write down, 1-3 things in your life that you’re thankful for, make sure that you add to the list every day.

Find your bliss

Focus on activities that bring you joy and try to incorporate these into your schedule regularly, if possible make this daily.

Also…

Spend time with the people who bring out your best self and who make you feel good.

And finally

Here are some tips to help you avoid potential catfish:

1. Use a reverse image search and you’ll be able to spot if the pictures they’ve used are on any other social media pages. If you know their full name you can also Google and/or search for them on FaceBook.

2. If they seem to be avoiding making plans to meet up suggest a video chat, if they’re still making excuses chances are the person they’ve presented to you isn’t real.

3. If you notice any inconsistencies or catch them in a lie, probe them further. Even if they’re not a catfish it doesn’t bode well that someone is willing to be dishonest with you.

4. If they even mention money – RUN ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ

* * *

Stay safe out there peeps!

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