We all know about the incident involving a college football player, Manti Te'o and an internet girlfriend. Apparently, a common practice where one develops an alternate identification for oneself online for dating is a practice called catfishing. It is named off of a TV reality show airing on MTV about the lies and drama generated between people when e-dating. The show has an example of one woman who is middle aged and develops an online persona of a young attractive woman to reel in a young impressionable man. The show is designed to educate those wishing to partake in online dating.
An interview with the stars of this show, Catfish, talk about this as a growing trend with online dating. Since this show started, the creator Max Joseph and Nev Schulman (who introduced the word catfish to describe a growing phenomenon) has gotten many emails and tweets about problems many have at this practice; and as time went on, more and more news of these cases came in (there is a number of 20,000). Apparently this practice has been going on for a while developing a queer popularity. According to them, the person, or catfish, creates this entirely bogus but inflated persona online just like the woman did with Te'o. But, does this happen more often then we think? Yes. According to Joseph and Schulman, the motivation for one catfishing is complex; but, a catfish seems to lack self-esteem and is not happy with their life. Still, even in their show some do it for a joke and it easily gets out of hand.
The fancy term catfish just is the same as an emotional scam artist who seems to get satisfaction from a very creative and involved ruse. As Laurie Davis points out in her blog, the thing that must happen before one gets involved emotionally is that one must meet the other person. One must go though a procedure to filter out many online fakes and get to face real genuine people on a date. Ultimately, online dating just points people in the direction of another; but, then people have to converse just as they would face to face to find out information. And important thing Davis points out about Te'o's case is that emotional con artists tend to confide in stuff that is too emotional too easily (which should be done in person) at a distance. Another thing Davis suggests is to check the person out by using Google.
Online dating definitely is a big thing on the internet. And now most dating sites have pointers about catfishing. And those dating sites check out those who join. But, even they are not perfect and some catfish are quite imaginative and bold. Another bit of advice adds to Davis pointers of doing homework and meet in-person with face time. Use Skype or similar video to look in the person's eye. A catfish will try to avoid this or will easily betray their lies. Keep track of excuses and after more than a couple begin to wonder and decide if the person is fake. A catfisher wants to operate anonymously and will run like a rabbit from being exposed. And meeting face to face will tend to spoil a catfish's scheme.
The similar thing about emotional scam artists is they try to convince one to hand over ones trust as a thief can convinces one to hand over money or ones ID. Emotional scams can get downright nasty. Some of these scams are talked about by online adoption resource. Emotional scams are perpetrated by emotionally imbalanced or unhappy people. Like the catfish, the emotional scam artist is looking for attention and shows desperation. When carrying out an emotional scam with perspective child adoption couples, the person may suddenly indicate the kid has died. This creates emotional turmoil creating a case where one may need help.
The problem is that emotional scams and even catfishing is not illegal-- unless money is exchanged under false pretenses. If the whole encounter is documented with that person putting stuff in writing then their deed can be proved. The catfish may be sued; but only if money is taken--hopefully if it is not a reoccurring thing. And, it is tough to say they are psychologically hurt when it may appear ones pride was hurt. But, this is emotional damage similar to that done to rape victims. This catfishing is mental rape which is just as effective as stealing from someone.
So, how can catfishing eliminated? Is there something we can do to prevent such despicable acts? Maybe a data base with online IDs proven to be false would help. Then, one would have to check and find out. But, in Te'o's case, he was very busy and did not have time to find out. This is why some sort of law needs to be written to address emotional scam artists-- especially online. These people need to be incarcerated for a time where they can get possible long term psychiatric help. And, they should also be banned from getting online.