The Psychology of a Catfish

Uh oh. Your parents might actually have been right about the whole “don’t talk to strangers on the Internet” thing.

The term “catfish” entered the American lexicon in 2010. Its origins are little fuzzy, but a catfish can be defined as a person who pretends to be someone else on a social media site, such as Facebook. Catfishing schemes run the gamut from simply changing a name to cultivating an entirely false persona.

Although catfishing formally entered our vocabulary a few years ago, it’s by no means a new issue. You’ve heard of the show To Catch a Predator, right? In case you need a refresher, the purpose of that show was to catch online predators who were preying on underage girls. Last year, MTV cashed in on the phenomenon with its hit, Catfish: The TV Show, inspired by the creator, Nev Schulman’s, own experience with a catfish scheme.

Catfish: The TV Show

But why would someone want to be a catfish? The answer is quite simple, and it’s one you’ve likely heard hundreds of times already—the anonymity of the Internet makes things that are impossible in the “real world” possible in the digital realm. Plus, as the MTV show proves, most people who catfish are searching for an online romance. So, what’s someone to do if he finds himself lost in the proverbial sea with no fish biting? We all know sex sells. And people who choose to catfish often embrace that fact in order to make themselves seem more attractive to potential online partners.

Tell us your thoughts about catfishing. Have you or someone you know been trapped in a catfish scheme? How do you think schemes like this will impact the reputation of online dating sites?