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Catfishing is the practice of creating fake online personas to forge connections with others. These connections are typically romantic relationship, but may also be platonic.
The term catfishing first entered the mainstream with the release of the 2010 documentary Catfish, about filmmaker Nev Schulman’s experience with an online catfish. The term became a more common part of the vernacular with the launch of his MTV program Catfish, which uncovers the truth about other real-life online relationships.
People who catfish, called catfishes, typically create fake accounts on social media, both for the identity they’re assuming and in some cases for other people their persona interacts with, including friends and family members. Catfishes often use photographs of people more attractive than themselves on their profiles. They might also enhance other aspects of their life, like their occupation, to make themselves appear more desirable. Most catfishes also use a fake name.
People might catfish others for several reasons. Some people who lack self confidence may feel catfishing is the only way they can form close relationships with other people. Catfishing can make lonely people feel less alone and fill time for people feeling bored. It can be an effective way exact revenge on an ex or a former friend. Some catfishes might use the relationship they forge for financial or material gain. Other people catfish simply because they’re curious about what might happen. Some people grappling with their own sexuality assume the opposite gender to see how a relationship with someone of the same gender might feel.
Several signs can suggest you’re talking to a catfish. Catfishes usually avoid video-chatting, meeting in person, or speaking on the phone as they fear these actions could give away their true identities. They may also claim to have an illness, injury, or some other kind of tragedy to illicit sympathy or money. Conversations with catfish may turn romantic or intense quite quickly. Catfishes often have few friends on their social media accounts.