Fished or Fishing? Internet Deception and “Catfishing”


The term “catfish” was introduced and popularized by Yanev Shulman, a filmmaker and former prey to an online catfish. In “Catfishing: The Truth About Deception Online”, New York anthropologist, Krystal D’Costa explains the phenomenon of these online false identities. With a rise in the success of online dating services, and a decrease in their previously negative stigma, the number of virtual relationship, both honest and dishonest, has drastically increased over the past few years.

Similarly to any initial face-to-face interaction, hopeful Internet users post their best attributes for others to see. Users often also portray information that they believe will attract the kind of person they are looking for. D’Costa discusses a women who chooses the wording in her profile deliberately to “avoid sounding ‘cutesy’ because she wanted to avoid people who might be looking for a less serious relationship” than she was. A catfish comparably uses the same deliberate techniques to find a person who fits the relationship they are searching for.

The reasons for a person to create a false online identity are as numerous as the ways in which people go about doing it.  A catfish creates his or her profile with purpose and intent, just like social media user or online dating hopeful. They are searching for a certain type of relationship, and create profile in reflection and in search of that. Next time you change your profile picture or like a page on Facebook, consider your motivations behind your decision. What version of yourself are you putting up for other to see?


2 thoughts on “Fished or Fishing? Internet Deception and “Catfishing”

  1. I think that this is a really interesting topic because it’s a fairly new problem brought on by the new technology age. Not many people understand what goes on in this area and it gives anthropologists a chance to uncover the gray area even within their own people. Could definitely be a nice documentary if someone would spend some time on it

    • Exactly, and I honestly love watching Catfish – I think that it’s really entertaining to watch someone be a completely different person than they are online, but they are looking for something through their fake online identity. Before reading the article I labeled everyone I’ve seen on that show as totally and completely crazy – but they are looking for something from the relationship they create, just like the people they hook, just like us. The fiction or selective truths of what we put up online can be seen on a spectrum. We tend to judge and exploit the extreme and are even entertained by it on MTV. Putting up an online persona that we, as social media users, want to be seen as is much more common that we think. We’re all looking for relationships online – that’s almost everyone’s reason for being on Facebook – keeping in touch, meeting new people, etc. What we post has direct influence on the relationships we want to continue or ones that we want to gain. I think we are much more conscious of how our actions online create and change those relationships than we admit.

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