Catfish and Sociopaths
Catfish (According to Urbandictionary.com): A catfish is someone who assumes a false identity on the Internet using various platforms including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. A catfish is often undesirable in comparison to thier profile, as an actual catfish would be to a premium “catch” fish like Alaskan salmon.
A few weeks ago, during a business meeting, a few of my coworkers brought up their obsession with reality television. When several of them began to rave about the MTV show “Catfish”, I immediately assumed that they were referring to some show about actual Catfish farmers or fisherman in the Deep South. You can imagine how silly I looked as I questioned them on why a show about a Catfish farm would be so interesting. After a brief description of the show, however, I decided that I should check it out.
As the Urban Dictionary explains, the Catfish that MTV features on this program is someone who creates a false sense of themselves online in order to lure in unsuspecting and vulnerable for romantic relationships. The show follows the person who is questioning the identity of the Catfish (usually because the person begins to make up loads of excuses to not meet in person). By the end of the show, the viewers find out what the true identity of the Catfish.
After watching a few episodes, I realized that this term Catfish is basically another word for a person with a personality disorder. Most episodes of the reality show leave the viewer as though he/she should feel sorry for this person who has lied about their identity (because usually it shows a deep rooted self esteem issue); however, having lived through a relationship in which I was extremely deceived, I find it hard to have compassion for someone who has engaged in this sort of behavior.
Social Media Catfish:
With the Internet and Social Media so pervasive, it is becoming increasingly easy to create a whole new identity and “false self” virtually. The television show often focuses on those who are hiding their true physical appearance. This is likely why it is so easy for viewers to feel a sense of sadness for the Catfish. In a society that places so much value on physical appearance, many people can relate to the idea of wanting to escape and be someone else for a while – someone that most people would find physically attractive.
The more common (and potentially more dangerous) Catfish, however, is the person who trolls the Internet for his/her mark and intends for the deception to continue in person (or intends to harm the mark financially, emotionally, or even physically). These Catfish focus on creating a bond with their mark before meeting in person so that the mark feels a false sense of trust upon the initial in person meeting. Luc used Match.com as his trolling mechanism. He created the profile based completely on his false self.
Here are some of the lies Luc propagated through match.com:
1) Rising R&B Singer: Luc made himself out to be a young man who had recently been signed by a major record label. If he could have gotten away with telling the world he was an established artist he would have; however, he knew that it would be impossible to pull off something that big. He created enough fake information online about this false career that anyone who wasn’t familiar with the music industry (like me) wouldn’t have initially thought this was strange.
2) College Graduate: Luc’s online profile noted that he was looking for someone with a comparable educational background. He claimed that he had attended Virginia Tech and graduated in Music Engineering. Upon meeting in person, he even had a framed diploma (which was fake) making it appear as though this lie was completely true. In reality, Luc hadn’t even finished High School. Unless I had requested official transcripts from the school, I would have had no way of vetting this lie initially.
3) Name and Age: Unless you are able to get ahold of a person’s Social Security number, this one is really hard to prove. On just about any social media site, you can claim whatever name and age you want without any proof. Luc decided that on match.com he wanted to be 26 years old (he was nearly 40). Had I known he was actually 40, lie number one wouldn’t have been as plausible.
4) Successful Software Businessman: Another lie that is easy to pass off on the web is your profession. For example, does LinkedIn require proof of the profession that you claim? Luc claimed he owned a small software company and this was how he was able to make ends meet while he pursued his music career. He created a website for this company, registered some random software product for a patent, and created a virtual job for himself.
When the Catfish steps from behind the computer:
If the Catfish has completely lied about their appearance, I imagine it usually doesn’t move from behind the computer; however, the most dangerous lies have nothing to do with appearance. In fact, when you meet them in person, and they look enough like their pictures, you might breath a sigh of relief. When I met Luc in person, he looked older than his pictures. When I questioned this, however, he noted that he had shared headshots and they must have been air brushed or something. Given that he still looked like the same person, I didn’t immediately question the other facts about his profile.
Before meeting Luc in person, we had spoken on the phone several times and shared many life experiences and stories (mine were true – his completely fabricated). I felt like I knew him already and this was a danger that I hadn’t known to protect myself from. My normal skeptical nature had been squashed because I believed I had gotten enough background from his profile and our conversations. All of the “background” I felt I had gathered, however, had been a fabrication provided by the Catfish.
Could you be dealing with a Catfish?
Since I started blogging, I have received many letters from women who tell me about how they were in a relationship with someone whom they really didn’t know. Sometimes, these women were married to the men for years before they learn their true identities. They believed they married and had children with an Alaskan salmon, when in reality they married a Potomac River Catfish.
(Note: For those of you outside of Washington, DC – Potomac River Catfish are big and ugly. While fun to catch, the CDC warns against eating them because they are full of dangerous levels of Mercury that when consumed in large quantities can poison you. Catfish are bottom feeders, so if their environment is polluted – they are too.)
Just because you think you know a person, and your relationship has moved beyond the virtual sphere doesn’t mean you aren’t dealing with a Catfish. If you are with someone whose story doesn’t seem to make sense, it might not make sense because they aren’t being honest. In the age of technology it has become increasingly easier to re-invent yourself. Regardless of what appears to be an attempt by popular media to sympathize with the Catfish, I believe this type of Catfish is dangerous and should be treated as such.
In a group following a blog some of the members flushed out a CATFISH… a female who started out being mid 50’s and in a matter of months was celebrating her 96th birthday… The blog was a fast paced one and covered a lot of cases of abuse, torture and murder of children. We started with the death/murder of Caylee Anthony. I suppose this woman didn’t realize her lies were being read and remembered. When I finally contacted the blog owner and suggested she look into this woman’s claims there was a huge number of people who defended her because she was funny and had such great insight. Her undoing was the death of her husband, and then her own impending death as she had just learned she had cancer. Stupid woman gave out hospital information and even a home address that were easily proven to be false. I don’t know if this “PERSON” was just out to have fun (however twisted) or maybe a practicing catfish. There are few people I really trust online.. Cappuccino Queen is at the top of my list of the few. Thank You for sharing your life and experience.
Wow…yes it sounds like this woman was a Catfish. I have heard of many sociopaths pretending to be sick. Luc told one of his ex girlfriends that he had stage four cancer. He told me that he had a mild stroke…and this was why he couldn’t work for a while (i.e. doctors orders).
What a fantastic post! It was literally one week ago, I was sitting watching the movie (not an MTV reality show) – the movie CATFISH.
This post is heaps interesting & yes, you do feel sorry for the deceiver because it’s a deep rooted self esteem issue and so on… but even though my self esteem has been gutter low in my lifetime, I STILL couldn’t deceive another person, so I just don’t understand how it relates – as in “Low self esteem… so must deceive people”. No, I don’t get it.
Thanks Noeleen. You are right…at times we all struggle with self esteem issues, but not everyone is capable of taking that personal pain and using it as an excuse to deceive and hurt someone else.
The makers of that show would rather cast them in a sympathetic light and pretend low self esteem made them do it. Their self esteem is beside the point. They do it because they have a sense of entitlement and they use others as emotional supply whether they like it or not. There was a guy on one show who had gotten 400 women to send him naked photos, masturbation, the works. Instead of production turning him over to the FBI and local police for a sex crime, solicitation, and possible underage porn, they played amateur psychologist and scolded him into pretending to be sorry. Another catfish scammed people out of money, but still no action by producers beyond scolding. These people are incredibly dangerous and evil and the producer do a disservice to the public by grooming us to empathize with predators.
This just happened to me. A 7 month long relationship. He used his own pictures although they were of a younger him. He came to visit me and pushed unprotected sex ( he said he was infertile and I have a bc implant ). I feel like I’ve been raped but there is no law against this type of thing. The justice system has failed us.
This is the only thing that bothers me about the TV show.. sitting down with dangerous people: narcissists, psychopaths, sociopaths.. When the hosts and victims push these monsters to show false remorse they are giving them an impression that they are understood and giving the victims false closure making them vulnerable to being victims once again.
Victims need to be taught that these certain types of catfish are extremely dangerous. Psychopathy and sociopathy can NOT be cured! They do not feel love, compassion, empathy or remorse. All of what appears to be their feelings are learned only superficially; they know what sadness should LOOK like. They are master manipulators, and no punishment will make them stop. I have met psychopathic children and oh boy are they good at what they do! They make your skin crawl. That deadness and evil inside, your whole soul goes cold when you meet a psychopath and you have previously experienced what they are capable of and have taught yourself about psychopathy and sociopathy.
People need to learn this: “there is something good in everybody” is a load of crap. These devils in disguise are extremely dangerous: they can manipulate almost anybody, they really get inside your head. It is the only thing that they do in life: mess with people, play games. They consider it fun. That’s why they can’t be cured. They can manipulate just about anybody and play any role they wish to. They are not human. Accept that fact that there are many out there who look like human but are not, deep inside they are NOT.
I hate that still it isn’t talked about enough so people could spot psychopaths and sociopaths. It infuriates me. People are trying to humanize these monsters just because they are so eagerly holding on to that “everybody has to be basically good” idea. “She just likes the attention”, “oh, he’s had such a hard life, poor guy” etc.
People like to think that psychopaths are automatically some kind of murderers and they look like ones. False. They can appear the most succesful, the most attractive and the most charming individuals to most people. They feed on other people’s emotions. They live for getting strong reactions; be they negative or positive. They push buttons and get reactions, and then they feel more superior and powerful, and they are always looking for new people, new and more extreme ways to mess with them, and If you let them in, they will make your life a living hell!