A story of a real life 'Catfish'

Real life stories mimic the famous TV show

Anonymity online.
Photo illustration by Josh Granovsky

It turns out that Nev and Max’s hunt for internet frauds on Catfish isn’t just the basis of an American reality show. It also happens in our very own Queen’s community.

For those who haven’t had much experience with online dating, ‘catfishing’ is a term used to describe the phenomenon where someone lies to another person online about who they are. They often cultivate a relationship with them regardless of this deception.

The concept really became common knowledge when MTV released a TV show called Catfish. On the show, hosts Nev and Max aid people who think they’re being catfished by using online sleuthing to find the person catfishing them and shamelessly confront them for their deceit. The show currently has seven seasons so there’s evidently no shortage of people who find themselves in this unique situation.

Honestly, I didn't know if it existed in our community. But after I posted on “Overheard at Queen’s” and asked whether catfishing exists for people at our school, I received lots of messages from people sharing their experiences, confirming that yes, indeed it does.

Justin* met someone online when he was in grade 10. The person claimed to be Russian royalty and even though he was skeptical, Justin ended up being convinced.

“He had a full profile and the way he talked he was so convincing and knowledgeable. I started off thinking it was a joke but it became increasingly possible that he was real as we talked more,” he said.

The story ends up being full of twists and Justin’s catfish ended up admitting he wasn’t the person he said he was. After this confession, the two decided to meet up to make amends.

“Eventually he told me it was fake and he told me his true identity. He was [allegedly] a year older from a different school and lived close to me. We ended up meeting up and playing video games. It was normal.”

At that point, Justin thought the situation had resolved itself to be nothing more than a strange online interaction — but it wasn’t the end of the story. Justin soon realized his catfish had lied about his identity once again.

“My friends and I played a prank on a restaurant and the manager (my Russian royalty video game friend) came running out and grabbed a metal rod and chased us away … my friend said that the guy was five years older and terrorized his sister and some other people.”

In Justin’s case, what seemed like a normal friendship turned into a much scarier encounter with a catfish.

“This was the guy that I had recently hung out with and claimed to be one year older than me … not five,” he concluded.

While it was a scary experience, Justin didn’t completely give up on meeting people online.

David, another student who reached out for the article, disclosed he’s encountered multiple catfish, mostly from the website Grindr and other online dating platforms. David explained that over time, he’s learned how to spot a catfish.

“Sometimes I catch on when they would refuse to take a selfie or something suspicious like that. Other times I’ve had guys show up who are absolutely not who they said they were and I usually leave in those circumstances.”

Justin and David have both taken different things out of their experiences of being catfished. Though the circumstance he was in was jarring at the time, Justin isn't discouraged from meeting other people online. David, on the other hand, has become warier about this kind of interaction.

“I’m definitely less trusting off the bat, I’m sure I’ve built up a thick skin … I think catfishing problems in the past have just made me more insistent that I see more proof that who I’m talking to is real.”

Still, both David and Justin aren’t completely opposed to meeting people online in the future. 

Even though Nev and Max were the ones that popularized the practice of catfishing and still work to expose some of the worst cases, catfishing exists in our own backyard. 

Whether you're trying to make friends on the internet or looking for love online, social websites may present the opportunity for people to manipulate and deceive other users and we at Queen’s aren’t immune to this deception.

*Last names have been omitted for privacy purposes.*


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