Urban Dictionary defines a Catfish as “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.” Pretending to be someone else can mean a lot of things. It doesn't have to mean a different name, weight, occupation, or gender. Maybe someone just acts differently online than in person. Maybe the profiles are all real, while the person you’ve been talking to is the fake.
I’ve dated guys that have been extremely charismatic in person, yet aren't good at texting. I’ve also been told by a few friends that I suck at texting, whatever that means. It’s sometimes confusing when you have great conversations with someone in person, yet struggle to keep a text conversation going. Is it them? Is it me? What’s the problem here? Are we deceiving each other?
The story I am going to delve into may be somewhat specific, but the general idea can definitely apply across the board to those who feel like the person behind the phone is a different person than in the flesh. For example, we all know those Instagram famous girls: super skinny, super blonde, always in a bikini on some tropical beach type of girls. But the truth is, their persona on Instagram is not who they truly are, and we oftentimes don't realize or we naively ignore that. They are Catfishing all of us by deceiving us into believing their profiles are their reality. Newsflash: they have bad hair days, days they feel bloated, or spend hours and take hundreds of pictures to get one good shot.
The inspiration for this discussion comes from a guy I met at a bar. It started off as a let’s just go out for one drink kind of Sunday night, at a dive bar, in Tennessee. My best friend and I happened to meet these guys who coincidentally also lived in the Philadelphia area. Small world right? After an evening of chatting, laughing, and honky-tonkying, it was clear to all of us that it became more than just one of those nice to meet ya see ya never kind of nights.
The guy I was talking to texted me the following day and every day since, for three months straight. Every. Day. Multiple hours. Every. Day. We started having real conversations. Talking about our families, our jobs, goals and aspirations and all that cheesy stuff. Our relationship was entirely over text message, and a couple drunk phone calls. But here’s where the Catfishing comes in.
I was only involved in the aspects of his life he wanted me involved in. I wasn't exposed to his reality. His friends didn't know he was talking to me. His girlfriend certainly didn't know either. The tunneled version of reality he exposed me to was only a small fraction of who he really was and what his life was really like.
Being fully aware he was doing this, I went back and forth with being alright with what we were doing. My self-assurance was that I was using him just as much as he was using me. I figured he was coming to me for some kind of comfort or support he wasn't getting in his reality, and I came to him for someone to talk to after recently moving to a new city and trying to get my feet on the ground. Neither of us were a part of each other’s realities. The collision of our realities is what made our relationship shatter instantly. When thrusted into the happenstance of both being out on a Saturday night in New York City, our whatever type of relationship collapsed in a 15 minute staggered text conversation of complex confusion. It was like quickly ripping off a bandaid to a wound we were intentionally hiding.
And after that we didn't talk. At some point he unfollowed me on the one form of social media we were connected on, and it’s like none of it ever happened. I was stuck facing the truth that everything he said and everything we talked about didn’t actually matter to him. While I mistakingly saw a friendship develop, he saw, well, nothing. He was someone who pretended to be someone they were not, and therefore a Catfish.
Admittedly, there are moments I miss him and also moments I don't remember him at all. With my luck I’ll run into him in five years from now at another dive bar, in another state. Even if I wanted to maintain the relationship somehow, the person I was talking to wasn't who he really was, and in a way I wasn't even really myself either. But hey, we enjoyed it while it lasted.
You do you.