My Secondhand Experience with a Catfish
The Internet is an ever growing force in our daily lives, growing now more dominant than ever, but baby boomers and a portion of Generation X still view it as the virtual abandoned alleyway of interaction. School becomes accessible around the clock, some classes even being offered solely online. Social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. make interaction more accessible and readily available than ever before, spreading news and information faster than in the past. Job openings and applications can be found and filled out with just a few clicks and key strokes. It is no wonder Internet dating is becoming a thing of the now; it is a sign of the times. Realistically, the vast majority of the first world would not be functional without the Internet, and ironically, it is the older generations who seem to always fall into the traps that the dark alleyway of the internet present.
Everyone's lives are hectic and full, leaving little time to dabble in the art of "sit down dating." Whether you find someone intentionally, actively pursuing a relationship on a dating site, or "accidentally," by crossing paths and grabbing their 'digits' on some other website, the prospect of getting "Catfished" has probably crossed your mind at some point or other. Finding a partner online still seems somewhat taboo and looked down on by a majority of the population, but since when is courting your future partner in a bar or place of employment exactly romantic anyway?
Not THAT Kind of Catfish
By now everyone should be at least somewhat familiar with the term "catfish" in regards to online dating. Yes, the show is beyond hilarious at times, but it can also be a little bit heartbreaking, especially when you consider that it could possibly happen to you. Of course, you're far too smart and in the know for that to happen, so you have nothing to worry about... right?
I have seen one, what I would have considered an 'internet savvy', friend get Cafished into oblivion, when it was obvious all along to the outsiders what was happening. I suppose love, or infatuation rather, can be slightly blinding. She truly was in denial the entire time it was happening.
Here are a few red flags I noticed from my second hand experience with an actual, real life Catfish.
- He never video chatted with her
"His camera doesn't work," she said. "His roommate is sleeping so he can't Skype right now." Asleep at 7:30 in the evening? Maybe, but highly unlikely. There is a good chance that I am a little too skeptical of people, but this was the point I'd made up my mind that this guy was a complete fraud. If you care enough about someone, you WILL make time for them, end of discussion.
She later informed me that on the two occasions he did video chat with her his camera was conveniently covered up the entire time because "It's nighttime there." His timezone may be five hours ahead, but I believe Britain still has these things called "lamps," I could be wrong though. The other time his camera had cracked mere hours before said call, rendering it useless. Tragically convenient if you ask me.
- A Facebook search turned up nothing
Okay, I lied. His name was relatively common (of course), but a simple Facebook search (performed by yours truly) turned up nothing that matched the picture he sent us. Granted, not everyone likes Facebook, but even those most vehemently opposed to it probably had one at some point. How do you think they developed such a hatred? I let this one slide due to the thought that maybe he just didn't like good ol' FB, but a search on Twitter and Instagram both left me with more questions than I started out with. I nearly stooped to searching MySpace, but I figured that would get me nowhere as well. Three strikes was enough for this amateur sleuth.
- He worked for a company that didn't exist
I don't remember the name of said company, but it was some computer engineering firm, that conveniently had no website or other online record when Google searched .......... I think you and I are thinking the same thing here. He always talked about how he made SO much money and wanted to "spoil my friend rotten" but never sent her a gift of any sort and couldn't even be bothered enough to get his computer camera "fixed" with all his riches. He worked in the computer business for crying out loud! Does this smell a little, shall we say, Catfishy to you? Yeah me too.
- He asked HER for money
Remember our well off, computer engineer, online love interest? Well he asked my friend to send him money on several occasions via Paypal under the premise that he would pay her back on the next payday. I'm sure you can guess how that one ended up. She didn't see a dime. Of course none of us found out until the "relationship" was nearing its end, but this seems like it would be a huge red flag to anyone in that situation. A guy says he loves you, won't video chat with you, but can ask for your money? Sounds legit.
- He never showed up
If the first few items on this list didn't make this situation seem obvious enough, I don't know how you can let this one slide. She informed me after about 4 months of them talking that he was going to fly here (over 4,000 miles) to meet her, it was going to be so romantic, everything was going to be perfect, they had even discussed moving in together! He spent the next month hyping this whole situation up, keeping her up to date the morning of his flight, starting with his trip to the airport via taxi, then he told her he had to put his phone on airplane mode and that he would be seeing her in roughly 9 hours. The next time they spoke it would be face to face.
I questioned her multiple times during the month between him buying the tickets and the day of his flight on how she would even recognize him from just the three pictures he'd ever sent, or if she realized how difficult it is to get citizenship in The States, one does not simply waltz in and settle down (legally, anyway). She brushed it off claiming that he was a "really smart guy." She was positive he had a plan for the two of them.
Anyway, as you could imagine, the day of the flight came, he baited her along with the details of his journey, she headed to the airport that evening with her best friend, and for some reason they were both shocked when they were told that there was not even a flight direct from London on that day. Maybe I'm a little (incredibly) cold, but the urge to say "I told you so" was overwhelming that following week, and I probably would have if she wasn't beyond an emotional wreck the entire time.
She didn't hear from him for about 8 days after that. Once he finally responded, he told her that he had been too scared and he left the airport right as his flight was boarding, and was just too afraid to fess up about it. Despite the fact that she knew 100% that the flight he claimed to miss did not exist, she believed him. The internal screaming was real, trust me.
About two weeks after that incident she "broke up" with the guy who emptied her bank account and broke her heart, despite never actually seeing him online or in person, she genuinely thought it was love.
It Probably Won't Happen to You, but it Possibly, Maybe Could... Perhaps
Other than the exploitation of my friend, you may ask what purpose this piece serves. I genuinely want to spare an unsuspecting soul the same trouble my friend endured. On the whole, Internet users assume they would never get Catflished, but this story, and an entire TV series, proves that it can happen to anyone.
Maybe this girl didn't use her brain like one would want to believe they would, but you can never say how blind you may become to the discrepancies and inconsistent truths someone may fill your head with. Maybe she was so desperate to feel loved and to be given attention that she blocked out the obvious truth. Maybe she was embarrassed but felt she was in too deep to call it quits so suddenly. I suppose we will never know. Granted, a lot of people would have seen the problems with this individual and not stuck around much past the "my camera won't work" phase.
Other than leaving us with a somewhat entertaining tale, we both hope this story goes to show that people do actually get Catfished. It isn't all one unbelievable television series and it doesn't only happen to old women caught in Nigerian Prince scams.
Young women get caught in English Computer Engineer scams, too.
(Disclaimer: I was given full permission to share this story, we all get a good laugh at it now)