Are you being catfished?
If you’re at all suspicious that someone you’re talking to online is not, in fact, who they say they are, you could be a victim of catfishing. While pop culture sometimes tries to persuade us that getting catfished is grounds for rom-com material, the reality is that there’s nothing romantic about it. It’s important to know the catfished meaning and to be able to identify warning signs so you can protect yourself against these online imposters at best and predators at worst.
In this article, you’ll find:
What Is Catfishing?
Why Is It Called Catfishing?
Why do People Catfish?
Signs You’re Being Catfished
The catfished meaning is the act of creating a false identity in order to lure people into relationships, whether friendships or romantic connections, online. The “catfish” refers to the predator who creates the false identity. While people who catfish may not be alone in creating fake personas for the internet, the thing that tends to separate catfishers apart from trolls, scammers and other online imposters is their emphasis on starting a relationship with someone and carrying it out over time. (In other words, no, that one time you texted your crush from a friend’s phone doesn’t mean you’ve catfished someone.)
Catfishing is abusive and deceptive. This practice was widely brought to light in Nev Schulman’s 2010 documentary Catfish and subsequent MTV reality show spin-off Catfish: The TV Show. Unfortunately, it also shows no signs of slowing down; at the risk of sounding like a boomer, dating apps and social media today offer all the more opportunities for catfishers to make contact. Seeing an uptick in what they call “confidence fraud” during the pandemic, the FBI has even shared official warnings about the potential for meeting a catfish or other romance scammer online, saying they’d received 22% more romance scam complaints between 2019 and 2020 alone.
As easy as it may be to write off the idea you could ever get catfished, it’s important to recognize that, truly, it could happen to anyone. (Just ask Noah Centineo.)
The term traces back to Schulman’s 2010 documentary and an anecdote shared in it by a man, Vince Pierce, who’s married to a catfish. Pierce says that, when shipping live cod between the U.S. and China, seafood suppliers discovered the cod would arrive in healthier, better condition if live catfish — a natural enemy of cod — was included in the tank.
“There are those people who are catfish in life and they keep you on your toes,” Pierce tells Schulman. “They keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh. And I thank god for the catfish because we would be droll, boring and dull if we didn’t have somebody nipping at our fin.”
… which is an interesting way to frame the impact of someone who chronically lies to and manipulates others, but we digress!
The reasons are never good. Some catfish are lonely, have poor self-esteem and want a relationship with someone they don’t believe would be interested in them — either as a friend or as something more — in real life. Some catfish are out to troll or harass their victims, or to get revenge on someone; importantly, just because shows like Catfish at times portray dynamics between strangers does not mean a catfish can’t be someone you actually know. Sometimes, catfishing is really just another form of cyberbullying. Other times, catfish want to scam money from their victims, or the catfishing is the first step in a plan to kidnap or physically abuse them.