It all started with a tweet. A follow, to be precise. I always wonder how many slander, defamation of character or libel cases start with that line these days. A follow soon turned into a quick stalk, on my part. What I saw was more than pleasing to the eye; a beautiful boy. Alarm bells should have rang, but they didn’t. I’m going to look into the psychology of what makes beautiful people less likely to act like criminals; I had a teacher who always told us that he was taught ‘when reprimanding, never look into the eyes of the pretty ones.’ Things snowballed; soon, it was direct messaging. Then it moved to Facebook. Every day there were new messages; mutual followings on Instagram, Tumblr, Whatsapp, Soundcloud – you name it, we were on it, and we had each other. Eventually, true progression. ‘Can I text you?’ The swapping of numbers. How could I have resisted that romance?
Before you go thinking that I’m some psychopath that is craving love enough to a) hallucinate herself into thinking that she has an actual boyfriend or b) completely fabricate a relationship to make her Facebook page look better, you should know that I am perfectly sane, and have never been in an extra-ordinary relationship with another person. I’m not technologically kinky. I don’t get ‘turned on’ by iMessage, I don’t sleep with my phone, nor am I a massive advocator for the sexting fad – frankly I find it dangerous (read this sentence back at the end of the article and how you will find yourself snorting at the irony – I will) I am a normal 18 year old girl, and this time last year, I was a normal 17 year old schoolgirl, finishing my last year of education, looking forward massively to the prospect of higher fulfillment. I was simply and unwillingly caught up in the vastly popular and emotionally exploitative modern day trend: Catfishing.
For those of you who don’t know what Catfish is, I strongly advise you to watch the MTV program (and also crawl out from under your rock) If you don’t have time - or like many of the other students – the resources, then I’ll give you a simple definition here. A catfish, by urban dictionary standards, is
“…Someone who pretends to be someone they're not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.” If you want a proper, in depth and professional description of Catfishing, then you should read Lisa Shaw’s article, adequately titled ‘What is Catfishing and Why You Should Care.’
If you’re wondering why the concept is named as it is, the original Catfishes husband conveniently describes it for us. Vince Pierce gives this quote: “They used to tank cod from Alaska all the way to China. They’d keep them in vats in the ship. By the time the codfish reached China, the flesh was mush and tasteless. So this guy came up with the idea that if you put these cods in these big vats, put some catfish in with them and the catfish will keep the cod agile. And there are those people who are catfish in life. And they keep you on your toes. They keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh. And I thank god for the catfish.”
My definition is a bit simpler; to be a catfish is a trendy new thing where you emotionally and even sometimes physically exploit someone because you’re bored. Or you’re lonely. You may be suffering from a mental illness, like mine claimed to be, or chronic loneliness, boredom or addiction (to your computer) Or maybe you’re just a downright nasty person who enjoys doing that sort of thing. In the end, it’s just a pretty shitty thing to do to someone. And me being me, who always attracted the sort of messed up and baggage laden kind, as well as the dodgy guy at the bus stop, the drunkard in the street, or the bird poo flying in the air, am easy meat for a person like that.
For a year and half I unwittingly participated in what I call my own ‘emotional molestation' and I am not ashamed to say that I want justice...so I find myself here. I am going to tell you my story, so that I can help the others who are in my position. So I can encourage other people who are, or have been, in my position to speak out about their experiences and know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE - and so that I can discourage anyone from entering so wholeheartedly into such an agreement that you don’t have the facilities to read the small print, but ultimately to offer you my story in this state of catharsis to raise awareness of the extreme vulnerability you impose upon yourself every time you accept that person you don’t know on Facebook, or message that true follower on twitter. In opening the door to your virtual community, you can simultaneously open the door to your life, and anybody can walk in. You wouldn’t open your front door to a stranger, would you?