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Catfish

Monday November 11, 2013

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Back in 2010, a documentary – Catfish* - was released that followed the exploits of Nev Schulman. Nev had established a serious relationship online but suspicions grew as to the veracity of his paramour’s true identity. Nev undertakes to meet her in person. In reality she is, of course, somewhat different from her online persona.

The film spawned a series on MTV of the same name involving Nev and his friend Max. The premise is that people who develop serious online relationships but subsequently suspect things are not as they seem, contact the pair who then investigate and organise a meeting between the protagonist and their online other half.

Much heart rending weirdness ensues.

What’s most interesting about the individuals involved is not the scammer’s reason for falsifying an identity, but the apparent naiveté of those seeking the truth.

The adage ‘all’s fair in love and war’ is misleading. At least war has a set of codified rules and norms. Love, and the search for its myriad aspects has no such controls. When the promise of companionship becomes tenable, all reason seems to take a sabbatical.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If we were to apply pure reason to the process of selecting and approaching potential partners – regardless of intent – any coupling would be a rather cold, damp affair. But the level of self-delusion that arises when online is extraordinary.

Of course, life is busy and the internet is an essential part of our personal and professional lives. London is a particularly difficult place to meet people so it makes sense to use all tools at our disposal.

But it seems we are yet to fully appreciate the dangers inherent in the trust we place in online interactions.

Strange then that while over 75% of 18-40 year olds have at some point engaged in online dating, far fewer have tried face to face events. And of course I’m pushing speed dating in London. It’s one of my many jobs.
But this doesn’t negate my point.

While more people than ever before are coming to our events, there still seems a degree of stigma attached to speed dating. The truth is it’s simply a far more fun, reliable and safe way to meet people than online.

So before you hand over your hard earned cash to join yet another dating site, pause for a second and consider your options. Do you want to meet real people or continue swimming with catfish?

*The term ‘Catfish’ is used to describe people who create false identities to draw others into active online relationships. The name derives from the practice of cod fisherman who found that when transporting cod long distances the fish remain inactive rendering their flesh mushy. When a catfish is added to the water with the cod, the cod are lulled into a false sense of security and remain active.

WORDS BY JOHN DAVIS