By Alli Van Roekel
In the last 5 years, the word “Catfish” has taken on a new meaning in American culture. With the rise of social media and online dating sites, people have begun making fake profiles and misrepresenting themselves, initiating dating relationships that sometimes last for years. In fact, there is even a show on MTV, called “Catfish”, dedicated to those who are victims helping them tell their story and find the real person they have been talking to so they can confront them.
I must warn you, the show is addicting because many of us watching are wondering- how can a Catfish do this and why? Why did these victims fall for it? This phenomenon gives us a window in our culture. I could write about technology and how that has changed our dating habits, but my main reason for writing is to understand the under-lying meaning of what is happening in these stories.
Below are some commonalities we see in the stories from the VICTIMS & CATFISH:
- Many have been bullied. Sadly, so many stories end with the Catfish revealing that they have been bullied so badly and have so much anger and hurt inside that they just wanted to find a way to hurt others. Being a Catfish was a “safe” way to both get something (love and affection) and give something (their pain).
- Many have gender / sexual identity confusion. Today, there is much discussion of gender and sexual identity, and we must not forget that many still suffer silently and in private over this confusion. Many have nowhere to turn to and are struggling to find answers. Being a Catfish gave them a way to experiment.
- Many don’t believe they are lovable as themselves. We certainly find after the windy road of finding the Catfish that at the end of the journey stands an individual whose self-esteem is so low, that pretending to be someone else is the only way they believed someone would ever want to date them.
- They are desperate to hear “I love you”. The victims thrive on the texts and private messages that tell them all the right words. They wake up to them and go to bed with them, and they become intoxicating.
- They don’t require much from their relationships. The only way for a Catfish to be successful is never allow the victim to hear your voice or see your face. This means that for years, the victims will allow someone to speak words of love and affection to them without ever having to reveal themselves.
- The fantasy becomes more important than the real thing. We know at some point the victims become suspicious (this is why they end up on the show), but they allow the fantasy to go on and on for years because they don’t want to let go of the benefits of having all the affection, even if it is all a lie.
My response as a Strengths Coach & Life Plan Facilitator is that I do what I do specifically so my clients will see their value and purpose and never feel the need to hide or pretend. The world needs you, and when I see you, I mean the authentic, real YOU.