Reader Mailbag: Gone Fishing

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

No, not that fishing. 

Reader (and Chicago celebrity) Jason Sacks writes:

“You should do a blog post on Catfishing”

You know what I say – my readers ask, they shall receive!

I must admit, I still watch Teen Mom. Right now the current season is on Monday night at 10:00 p.m. est. Frankly, there is nothing else I watch in this time slot, so I’m typically multi-tasking while listening to Jenelle get yelled at by her mom. A few weeks ago, I noticed that Teen Mom was followed by a show called “Catfish.” After about two episodes, I was hooked. It took Brady about three or four shows, but eventually he too was reeled in (editor's note: all puns fully intended).

The premise of the show is this:
·         Hook, line, sinker: a young adult meets someone online, falls in love and wants to meet them in person
·         Young adult contacts a man named Nev (the “host” of the show) and asks Nev (who works for MTV) to help them meet their lover.  Nev is to catfishing as Chris Hansen was to sexual predators.
·         Nev and his film crew meet the young adult and get the scoop on the love affair
·         Once Nev gathers the info, he and his team do some “research,” report their findings to the young adult and typically contact the other person to schedule a meeting between the lovers

Now this is where this story always gets interesting. I’d say eight times out of 10, the person the young adult is in love with doesn't turn out to be who they thought (i.e. scary creeper). Lesson learned: There are other reel (lol) fish in the sea. 

Nev hosts this show because he too was catfished. He thought he was talking to some smokeshow (hottie) from Michigan, when it was really some mom with a fake profile. Nev’s whole story was featured in a documentary that was filmed by his brother and debuted at Sundance a few years ago.

The reason this whole “faux profile” thing is called “Catfishing” is explained in Nev’s documentary. The husband of the lady that created the fake profile said, “when live cod were shipped to Asia from North America, the fish's inactivity in their tanks resulted in mushy flesh, but fishermen found that putting catfish in the tanks with the cod kept them active. Vince feels that people like Angela are "catfish", who keep other people active in life” (via Wikipedia).

If I’ve learned all there is to be a parent from Teen Mom (no, I’m not with child, Sorry Mom!), then I’ve learned all there is to be a catfish expert from Nev.

If you are talking to someone that you met online, here are some signs that they may not be real:

1.      They won’t talk to you on the phone: In one episode some cute athlete guy says that his online love can’t talk on the phone because she doesn’t have one…um, it’s 2013. I know six-year-olds with mobile phones. Tell your crush to go out and buy a $25 pre-paid phone from Walmart and call you. Also – pay phones still exists for like $50. While I’m at it, can’t you ask your neighbor to borrow their phone?

2.      They won’t Skype with you: If they are talking to you on a computer, it’s likely that computer is equipped with a camera. Ask the person to Skype with you. If they say they don’t have a camera, suggest the local Apple store or library. If they still keep saying no, ask them to send you pictures other than the ones included in their profile. You see, most people that create faux profiles only have a handful of pictures that they post.

3.      GOOGLE THEM: This is so simple…Google the person. See what a search of their name pulls. If they have a name like “Dave Smith,” type in some other things in the search box like where he’s from, maybe his occupation, school info, etc. It’s likely everyone has SOMETHING else about themselves online than just a Facebook profile.

4.      Google Image Search: This one is a bit more complicated, but once I show you how it’s done, it’s simple. Remember how I said above to ask for more pictures of the person? Well if they won’t give you any OR agree to any of the things above, save their profile picture and run a Google image search. See my step-by-step instructions below. Your search may turn up identical pictures that may have been stolen from someone else’s profile. Yes, there are sick people now that steal people’s Facebook pictures to make their own faux profile. Sick world we live in!

 A few other ways to uncover a Catfish:
·         Look at their friends (if the list is open). Are they friends with relatives?
·         Read comments on their wall and photos. Who comments on their photos?
·         Find out when the profile was created. Are they new to Facebook? Are they friends with people from high school and/or college?
·         Ask them to talk about their family and job.

A lot of this seems like common sense, but if you watch the show, it’s rather crazy how these things don’t occur to the young adult that is in love!

Anyway, I hope sharing these tips educated you on the topic of catfishing so that you either aren’t duped OR can ensure that your child doesn't fall victim to internet fraud!