Catfished – 4 Signs of Catfishing and How to Avoid It

Have you ever seen that show Catfish on MTV? I admit, I’ve seen a few episodes and have come to admire Nev and Max if for no other reason, their very laid back and affable nature. Nev seems like much too nice a guy to actually lecture anyone, unlike say, Joey, Tommy or Clark from Cheaters, who just seem itching for a fistfight with the way they talk to people.

But yes, we’re here to talk about the phenomenon of Catfishing. Believe it or not, the original 2010 documentary starring Nev helped to popularize the term “Catfish”, which we know kind of take for granted. The idea is that the “Catfish” is lying and deceiving the victim, by pretending to be someone he’s not. In the case of Nev, his first and most personal catfish case invented an entire network of fake personalities in order to simulate a strong social networking presence.

The original explanation for the term catfish comes from an illustration used in the movie. Fishermen noticed that when live cod were shipped across the world, the inactivity of the fish resulted in mushy flesh. But when fishermen put active catfish in with the cod, this kept them active and increased the flesh quality. So the catfish’s goal is to keep the other person active and on their toes.

In many cases, or at least what you might observe watching the show, is that some of the catfish are scared to admit what they really are. On the other hand, some really just enjoy playing with other people’s emotions and having the power trip of making someone fall in love.

Regardless of what kind of catfish you’ve encountered, it’s best to recognize the signs and call them out on this behavior BEFORE you fall for them, and before you start believing this amazing trail of lies. It might actually be better to avoid catfish in the first place, recognizing some of these red flags.

1. He’s unusually specific in his conversation.

Online dating is not the easiest thing in the world. Some guys are good at creating conversation and encouraging banter. Then again, there’s the weirdly specific online fellow who contacts you out of the blue and seems to immediately involve you in their lives. Most people casually date online, they casually introduce themselves to you. When you have a person who has a very specific agenda to discuss (even if it doesn’t seem like a sales scam) something is off. If the story is far-fetched and unusually tragic or exciting…chances are, it’s fake! They’re more concerned with convincing you of their identity than they are just innocently chatting.

2. He has no believable picture.

What’s really amazing is how many people on Catfish are still willing to talk to a stranger who isn’t willing to provide any pictures. Whether your stranger is postponing a selfie or has a strangely beautiful profile picture (think supermodel handsome), be suspicious UNTIL he provides PROOF of who he is.

The important thing is to request something specific rather than just let him/her continue telling tall tales. There is NOT proof in detailed conversation, obviously. It’s not always enough to ask for a few pictures since he could grab these from the internet. Do a quick Google Image search to see if he lifted these pictures from somewhere else. Otherwise, REQUEST a specific picture that involves him doing something you ask. (Like making a funny face or wearing a specific outfit) If he offers you nothing but great model caliber pictures, be wary.

You could also ask him to give you a full name and then research it online through a site like Ancestry, or social media sites, or public listings, or even a sex offender search. A good man who’s REAL (and not a sociopath with a record) obviously has nothing to fear from letting someone search his name online. In other words, he must prove who he is to earn your full attention.

3. He uses manipulative tactics such as love bombing or faking social media presence.

If the person seems untraceable and doesn’t have a social media presence, this could be a red flag. On the other hand, if he has a very low number of friends, and seems to have a completely invisible or even absent family life, be cautious.

The catfish will often use similar manipulative techniques as a narcissist or sociopath would, namely, “love-bombing” you too much too soon. He will constantly play upon your sympathy and get you to volunteer help. He will claim or imply that he’s falling for you hard even before you’ve met in real life.

He may copy and paste text from other “successful” profiles (which really, no sane person has ever done!) or insist that his limited social media pages are evidence enough. However, the easiest way to fake information is through Facebook, LinkedIn, websites or still pictures. Ask for more…like Skyping, or using Facebook or Facetime video.

4. He doesn’t want to meet in person and comes up with a very convincing excuse.

It might be fun in the beginning to humor this guy if he has a marvelous story to share. But don’t invest much in him UNTIL he meets you face to face. The pattern of catfishing is the same all the time. He/she will captivate you with good storytelling and postpone the in-person or video encounter. After all, a video meeting may disappoint you. But the catfish figures, more storytelling is exactly what you want. (And if you’re wearing your heart on your sleeve, that IS what you want, instinctively)

The catfish may imply that video is too intimate since he hardly knows you. Not a good sign. In fact, even Nev once said “It’s easy to get fooled into thinking you have an intimate relationship because you’re probably messaging, texting, and emailing them constantly. You might feel connected to them, but you still don’t really know who you are connected to.”

This is why you must be firm and say that in order for you to become emotionally intimate, you want some physical proof. Make this a firm part of your dating etiquette. Don’t cave, even if he throws a tantrum or tries to ignore your request.

In the best case scenario, it will challenge a man who really likes you to “man up” and show himself. It will also scare catfish away since they’ll know you’re onto their game.

Catfishing may be fun for people who enjoy role-playing online. But let’s be honest, it’s disruptive to people who really are single and looking for a serious relationship. There will be plenty of time to play games later on.

In early dating, the man has an obligation to show you who he is and that he’s a normal, safe, sane and respectable guy you would be glad to be seen with. Yes, glad to be seen IN PUBLIC with, since that’s where this relationship should be going.

Call a catfish on his suspicious behavior and he’ll become…well, like a fish out of water, let’s just say.

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Talk soon,

Matthew Coast

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Matthew Coast

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