What is a Catfish?
Yes, a catfish is a sea creature. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. Amongst us humans, we have catfish. Their habitat – online dating apps.
A Catfish is someone who pretends to be someone else on social media sites. This person completely assumes a fake identity and spares no effort in convincing their victim that they are exactly who they say they are.
Most of us may have done it in varying degrees to create a persona for our profiles on online dating apps. That is a nice way to put it. But, essentially, we are intentionally lying and withholding some key information about ourselves. Does that make us a catfish? Perhaps not a complete catfish but that doesn’t make us any less guilty of being dishonest about who we are.
Why do people “catfish”?
The list of reasons for “catfishing” is inexhaustible. From rationalising “everyone wants to date someone younger”, ”I need to stand out and get noticed”, “everyone is lying about their online profiles anyway” to “swipe right my profile first and I’ll figure out how to tell the truth later”. While it seems fairly harmless at the beginning, the aftermath of being caught is something most of us might not be prepared for.
The lifecycle of a Catfish and 3 reasons not to be one
Let’s talk about the psychological journey of a catfish and the 3 reasons we need to stop being one.
The Benign Beginning
It is all fun and good until someone swipe right on your profile aka your fake persona. You enjoy the attention and the chats. Then they start to get really keen. They want to know more about you. They ask about your age, occupation, where you graduated, if you’d been married before, and so on. If lying is in your DNA, keep the show going. But for most of us, it takes a lot of effort to avoid these questions AND to not speak the truth. It gets even harder when you begin to like Mr Swipe Right or Ms Swipe Right (for ease of reference, we’ll stay with Mr Swipe Right for the rest of this blog) But wait! The nightmare doesn’t stop there. You realise that he actually has the potential of being more than a friend. Now what?
The Murderous Middle
At this point, the only thing you could do is to keep lying. You’d need to think of new lies to cover your tracks. At the same time, you’re trying to remember the lies that were told earlier, the day before and the week before. By now, you are in a dilemma wondering if you should come clean and tell the truth? “No!” Your insecure self needs to continue the lie because (you believe) your true self is not good enough. Mr Swipe Right would not have swiped right on your profile if it was the real you.
You are in a situation you clearly don’t want to be. There could be feelings of shame, guilt and helplessness about the situation. But you console yourself. Apart from those “minor” details that you have conveniently omitted or avoided, you have been yourself all along in your interactions with Mr Swipe Right. Surely he must like those parts of you. You promise yourself to tell Mr Swipe Right the truth the next chance you have.
The Excruciating Ending
The chance never came. It gets harder and harder to cover your tracks. You’re on a slippery slope. The probability of you being inconsistent with what you say, what you share and what you do increases over time. One must learn to never underestimate people’s attention to details. Chances are, Mr Swipe Right will eventually start to suspect that something about you is not quite right.
Given that there is nothing Dr Google doesn’t know and if Mr Swipe Right was curious enough, he would have found pieces of information about you on LinkedIn and other social media pages. He could be devastated, disillusioned or simply unforgiving but he’s decided to stop talking to you. Yes, you have been ghosted and you know you deserved it. Or he has chosen to confront you for taking him on a ride that’s gone way too far. Either way, it’s an ugly end to the story.
The guilt. The shame. The feeling of being rejected. But what is one of the worst consequences you may have to face? You risk tarnishing your professional reputation if it so happens that Mr Swipe Right is in the same professional circle/industry as you and hasn’t quite recovered from being “catfished” . Are you prepared to lose your job or the reputation that has taken you years and loads of hard work to build? This is one risk that is not worth taking.
There is hope yet
Nonetheless, not all is lost. Here are some suggestions that may help:
- Delete your fake profile right away.
- Be courageous to put your real self online and trust that you’ll attract people who embrace diversity and accept others for who they are and not what they look like, what job title they hold or what their age is.
- Not courageous enough? Go offline and make more friends in a more organic way via social-dating platforms such as Table For Two.
- Be honest with yourself and others. If you’ve already connected with someone online, and there’s genuine mutual liking, take the brave step to tell the truth. You might be pleasantly surprised or rudely shocked. Either way, you’ll sleep better at night.
- Acknowledge your insecurity and do some inner work. Ultimately, we have to accept and love ourselves first. Consider working with a life coach to get you started on a journey of self empowerment.
- Hold onto the belief that there is someone out there who shares your values of honesty and authenticity and begin your relationship on these solid premises.
- Banish all the excuses you have to be a catfish because it is absolutely not worth losing your peace of mind.
In conclusion, ”Never start something you can’t finish.” Because lies are like bottomless pits, they can never be covered.
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