Culminating Project: Catfish Culture

Catfish.

This word use to simply refer to a freshwater/marine fish.

In the last decade the term has become much more complex. It now has a second definition: A person who lures someone into a relationship using a fake persona. On the MTV show “Catfish,” the hosts Nev and Max make it their mission to find these deceivers and figure out the purpose behind their fraud.

Benson-Allott says Facebook is “a database of personal information, an ever-expanding archive of profiles, status updates, wall posts, and photos” (55). The hosts of “Catfish” don’t use any fancy techniques to hunt people down. They use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram because they provide all of the information they need to find someone.

It’s simple to create a fake persona online. A person can easily steal pictures and create a new identity on various social media platforms. Many people are not comfortable in their own skin and look for a way to escape from reality. Lovelock explains “Through the intervention of the program the catfish vow to work on learning to accept their “real” selves, and to represent themselves “authentically” online in the future” (205). But this raises a question: Can anyone ever be 100% authentic on social media?

This issue matters. It’s not just about one person deceiving another person online. First of all, it shouldn’t be this easy to do. If you timed me, I could create a fake Facebook profile in under five minutes. The reasons people choose to do this are something we shouldn’t ignore. Yes, many of them do use fake profiles for deceptive purposes. I never thought I would feel bad for the catfishes on the show, but some of their stories and explanations are heartbreaking. Their authentic profile may not receive the positive feedback that their fake profile does. In the end people have to realize that living in a “Black Mirror” kind of world where everyone scrutinizes one another is dangerous. But we’re not far from it.

We should strive to live in a world where our “online” and “offline” selves are no longer distinct.

Sources

Benson-Allott, Caetlin. “The Algorithmic Spectator.” Film Quarterly, vol. 64, no. 3, Spring2011, pp. 55-58. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1525/FQ.2011.64.3.55.

Lovelock, Michael. “Catching a Catfish.” Television & New Media, vol. 18, no. 3, Mar. 2017, pp. 203-217. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/1527476416662709.

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