Published on February 18th, 2013 | by Alyssa Cicero
VIDEO: You’ve Just Been ‘Catfished’
Video above: A trailer for “Catfish: The TV Shows displays how mainstream this occurrence has become in the United States.
Alyssa Cicero, Copy Editor
Remember the days when parents would drill into our minds the dangers of the Internet? Talking to a stranger online was basically the equivalent of getting into a white van with an alleged murderer.
Fast forward a few years, and times have changed quite a bit. Companies like Match.com or eHarmony boast that one in five couples have met online, and social networks make talking to someone from a foreign country as simple as tying your shoe. Although Facebook was limited to college students at its start, the network now has users as young as 10 or 11 years of age. A decade ago, many young people that age weren’t allowed on the Internet at all.
“My mom wouldn’t let me have a Xanga or Myspace when I was younger,” said Payton Laczynski, sophomore athletic training major. “She always lectured me about how the Internet is a scary place, and that there are many weird people out there that might want to kidnap me.”
With this online interaction going on, is it truly possible to meet a person online and fall in love or start a lifelong friendship?
In enters MTV to capitalize on this question with their new reality show, “Catfish: The TV Show.”
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past decade or so, MTV is clearly no longer all about music television. Granted, they do show the occasional round of music videos during those odd hours of the night when 97 percent of the population is asleep, but the station makes its big bucks nowadays on reality shows.
“Catfish: The TV Show” is another one of these reality shows, and according to the high ratings it has been receiving, people are loving it.
“I like it (the show) because it is usually so outrageous; it’s entertaining,” said James Burrell, junior communication studies major.
The premise of the show started back in 2010 when its creator, Nev Schulman, began an online relationship with a woman named Megan. Turns out, Megan wasn’t who she said she was. Lucky for Schulman, his brother and friend had been filming the entire scenario, and it made for quite a catchy documentary called … you guessed it: “Catfish.”
From there, Schulman wanted to help others in the same situation as he was, and “Catfish: The TV Show” was born.
Schulman and his filmmaker friend Max Joseph travel the country helping people determine if the person they have fallen in love with online is being truthful or if they’re really just a “catfish.” According to the show, a catfish is a person who creates a fake online profile on a social networking site.
Despite the fishiness (no pun intended), people love the show. The Hollywood Reporter noted that recent episodes have been seeing close to 3 million viewers, and it is one of the top cable broadcasted shows for adults ages 18-49. Viewership has also shot up as of late after Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o fell victim to an elaborate Internet hoax.
The show may seem far-fetched to some, yet Burrell admits he has been in a situation similar to what some of the people on the show go through.
“When I was about 11 or 12, I was talking to some girl online for a while, and eventually she sent me a Polaroid picture of herself in the mail,” Burrell said. “And when she didn’t really look how I imagined, I realized that I made a mistake. I got ‘catfished’ at an early age.”
Avid viewers of the show note that the instances where the two people in question are actually compatible are few and far between. More often than not, a fake Facebook profile is the culprit of the supposed romance, ending what the person thought would have been true love.
Knowing what can happen, why are people so much more willing to give out information online now than they were in the past?
“I believe people have become careless with their personal information,” said Dr. Lynn Tovar, associate professor of justice, law and public safety studies at Lewis. “There is a social attachment factor in which the pursuit of connectedness is one of the three basic motivating principles underlying social behavior: the need for belonging and connectedness promotes social relationships, therefore, people feel a need to share personal information.”
In a recent interview with Female First, Schulman notes that he has received about 10,000 email applications since the start of the show from people wanting to know the truth about their online romances. Although the show most certainly won’t be an end all to the problem of fake “catfish” profiles and people being fooled online, there’s a good possibility it will make some think twice before disclosing themselves via the Internet.