Tuesday, January 29, 2013


It’s nothing new, but the awareness of this online nightmare is growing. Years ago, a man named Nev Schulman did his own documentary on a hoax that was being played on him by a woman named Angela. He coined the term “catfish” to describe Angela and people like her. I watched the movie, which if you haven’t seen it, you really should. Basically, it’s a wake up call to everyone who meets people online, develops a “relationship” and yet has no idea who this person really is. In Nev’s case, Angela not only pretended to be someone she was not, but created fake accounts, with stolen pictures, to represent her “family” and “friends” who also chatted with Nev.

Recently, there have been shows done on this crazy phenomenon by Dr. Phil and Katie Couric because of a story in the news concerning Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o. The story is very complicated, but someone created a fake---then dead---then not dead girlfriend which turned into a scandal. It was thought Manti made up the whole story just to get sympathy in the media and improve his chances in the NFL draft picks. I don’t think anyone, even with the best of  imaginations, could come up with a scheme like this. It seems Manti did not conjure up this story, it really did happen to him, but after getting suckered into what he and his family believed was an online relationship, he did a little lying to extricate himself from the embarrassing situation.

According to Nev Schulman, The term "catfish" comes from a story in which catfish were mixed in with cod to force the fish to swim around during shipping, to keep them from getting mushy and remain tasty. People who are “catfish” keep others moving or on their toes.

I find this whole thing fascinating, but also frightening. Any one of us can easily be drawn into a fake relationship/friendship by people who have too much time on their hands. Their motives can vary from creating a fantasy world for themselves, to perpetrating a fraud or scam for money, or playing a complicated hoax for fun. Now, with all the publicity being generated by Te’o’s situation in the media, I expect more cases will develop by copy cats, the mentally unstable, people seeking a warped revenge on frienemies, and who knows who else? The idea is out there and it’s intriguing and challenging. Attention seeking people may want to created a more elaborate hoax and see how long they can perpetuate it, for fun or notoriety. And if it does, we can thank the media and television shows for giving this case a lot more attention than it deserved. For my part, I heard the initial story and forgot about it. Now, thanks to all the coverage from every angle, I am learning more and more of the particular details. I’m sure others are too.

Maybe, it would be a good thing to read Te’o’s news story and watch the movie “Catfish”
just for the awareness of how easy such a hoax can be played on unsuspecting people. You don’t need to meet a catfish online to keep yourself on your toes, just knowing they are out there should be enough motivation to be cautious and vigilant in your online relationships.

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