The ‘catfish’ Phenomenon and online dating

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One of the most common ways people are meeting and finding love is online. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, Grindr, RSVP…and the list goes on! All of these sites allow us access to people we wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity of meeting.
Close emotional bonds can form quickly before you’ve even met someone in person. But what happens if the person you’ve fallen for online isn’t at all the person you ultimately meet “in real life”?

CATFISH
In 2010, an American documentary, Catfish, was released. It followed NYC’s Nev Schulman’s blossoming Internet relationship with “Megan”, a girl in Michigan. Hundreds of messages and numerous phone calls over 8 months were exchanged prior to their meeting. Unfortunately for Nev, reality wasn’t even close to what he’d been led to believe.
The film inspired an MTV reality show bearing the same name, and hosted by Schulman. The term “catfish” thus entered the pop culture lexicon, and essentially refers to someone who pretends to be someone they’re not on social media, dating websites, etc.

WHY DO PEOPLE LIE ONLINE?
Why would someone create a persona that doesn’t exist if they’re more than likely going to be found out, resulting in heartbreak for both parties? It’s usually not the intention of the dishonest person to hurt the person they’re deceiving. They’re usually terribly insecure and fearful of rejection. They might not feel confident about their appearance, so use a photo of someone else as their profile picture. Or they might say things about their work or hobbies to make them more appealing to the person they’re trying to woo. It’s easy to be whoever you want to be behind the computer screen in the safety of your own home. Meanwhile the other person begins to idealise them in the absence of any factual information

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE TRUTH COMES OUT?
The problem with lying is that the truth inevitably comes out, and heartbreak is a forgone conclusion. One of the key ingredients in any relationship, romantic or otherwise, is trust, and one can’t develop if it’s based on deceit.

HOW CAN I AVOID BEING “CATFISHED”?
For those who have been on the receiving end of a catfish scenario, remember that the person you fell for probably didn’t intend to hurt you. Whilst their lies are inexcusable, they were likely battling their own insecurities.
The next time you’re chatting with someone online that you feel you have a connection with, organise a time to Skype, or even meet up for a coffee if that’s what you’re comfortable with. It’s advisable to meet up in a neutral public place initially, so that if you’re feeling uneasy you’re free to leave.
Meeting someone in person will give you a far better idea of who you’re bonding with, rather than falling in love with an avatar.

BE YOURSELF
For those of you who don’t feel confident to let the world see who you truly are, know that the right person will love you exactly as you are. To quote the wisdom of Dr Seuss: Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.

*NB. If you feel like you are suffering from ongoing insecurities and unhappiness about yourself, speak with your GP or health professional.
Contact Dr Aileen Alegado on www.mindsetpsychology.com.au

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