It’s every online dater’s worst nightmare. You spend months talking to a person that you feel like you connect with on a variety of levels. You devote hours to this person, divulge personal and even painful information, and they still accept you. You think about them all the time and finally feel like you could fall in love with someone you’ve never actually met face to face.
The next thing you know, they start acting distant or pushing you away when you bring up meeting in person or talking via video calling. Ultimately, you are crushed and utterly deceived when the entire thing blows up in your face as you realize that the person you thought you knew was actually not even the same person they had portrayed themselves to be.
And then it dawns on you… You just got catfished!
What is catfishing?
Simply put, being catfished is like being deceived online. But the person lying to you isn’t just lying about trivial stuff like what they look like or where they live. It’s like they’re actually living a second life online that’s markedly different from the one they’re living in real life.
The person you’ve been slowly falling in love with online may present themselves to be a charming twentysomething who works for a hip little record store, when in fact they’re actually an incredibly insecure fortysomething who’s just looking to get close enough to you to get you to send them nude photos! Creepy, right? [Read: 6 big things you need to know before stripping for a photo]
What it’s like to be catfished
Getting catfished sucks, but here are a few stellar pieces of advice, so you can hopefully avoid getting caught in a similar situation in the future.
#1 You may be honest, but not everyone else is. It’s all too easy to be naïve and believe that being a good person who values honesty will also attract those types of people to you. While it’s not always a flaw to want to see the best in others, it’s also the quickest way to overlook red flags and end up disappointed.
Being catfished by a person who you believed to be honest is a slap of reality that serves as a reminder that not everyone will be honest with you just because you’re honest with them. [Read: 9 ways to avoid online creeps and their creepy ways]
#2 Don’t judge a book by its cover. In today’s world of Photoshop, Instagram filters, Camera 360, and all kinds of editing programs that can manipulate images, it’s really not so difficult for someone to portray an overly flattering image to the online world. A catfish will only show you what they want you to believe, not who they really are.
Online dating sites are filled with profiles of blurry head shots or faceless pics of 6 packs or bikini bods. Some pictures are actually stolen from other real people’s profiles, and these are the worst kinds of deception. If the guy or girl you’re talking to looks like they walked right out of GQ or a Victoria’s Secret catalog, they actually might be fake. [Read: 13 easy ways to spot liars in an online dtaing website]
#3 Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The chances of this person being your soulmate could be real or not. The great thing about online dating is that you don’t have to commit to any one person before getting to know them, both online and in person.
#4 Watch out for the red flags. Only talking at certain times of the day, only body pics, fewer pictures, reluctance to engage in video chat or talk on the phone, hesitance to meet in person but seemingly interested… These are some of the biggest red flags of the online dating world. If the person you’re talking to does any of these things, bail out as soon as you can!
#5 Do your research. In the age of technology, there is bound to be something about this person that can validate whether they are real or not. Search for their name online, and try to see if they exist elsewhere. If you can’t find a legitimate-looking profile of them on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, or even Twitter, they’re probably fakers. [Read: 30 really great tips to help you win at online dating]
#6 Ask the right questions. Dating, whether online or in real life, requires you to at least get to know a little about the person you’re talking to. Ask them questions about what they do, what they’re into, what kinds of people they hang out with, or where they like to hang out.
If their answers are inconsistent, you’re getting catfished. If they answer with all too generic responses, they’re either incredibly boring or you’re getting catfished. Lastly, if their responses are way too fantastical, they’re probably nuts and you’re most likely getting catfished. Any fishy answers will tell you that you’ve got a catfish in your hands.
#7 Don’t rely on messaging alone. It’s best to get them to talk on the phone and have a video chat before spending months speaking to someone who could be hiding behind a false image. Skype is the preferred method of being able to see the person you are talking to.
If they decline, you can expect that something fishy is going on, regardless of what excuse they might give you. [Confession: I used a dating site without a photo and this happened!]
#8 Catch them off guard. You can choose to call them randomly while you’re chatting to see if they pick up. If they don’t, then that’s a huge red flag. If they pass the random call test, ask them for a photo holding a specific item or doing something specific. This will prove whether or not the photos they send you are genuine, and not just photos of random people they found online.
#9 Appeal to their morality. This is a long shot, particularly if the person you’re talking to is a pro at deception. But either way, honesty is still the best policy – it’s worth a try to make them feel guilty for lying or deceiving you. You can mention that you hope they’re the real deal, because you’ve been nothing but honest this whole time. [Read: 13 annoying and inconvenient online dating problems you have to face]
#10 People who catfish are usually insecure. Many people who catfish do so because they’re not confident with who they really are. This is why they choose to make up a fantasy life that they can live while talking to the people they’re deceiving. Most people who catfish aren’t really out to harm anyone, so it’s best to just have sympathy for them and ignore them afterwards.
However, be wary of those who try to ask for money or favors from you. These people will try to appeal to your naivety to take advantage of you. As a general rule, never ever give out money to people you’ve only just met online. [Read: 13 reasons why online dating may not be for you!]
#11 Always keep your safety in mind. Whatever you refuse to reveal to a person you run into on the street should be the same information you refuse to divulge to anyone you’re talking to online. You never know what they might do with information such as where you live, where you work, who your friends are, and other information that they can use to stalk you, or worse, harm you. [Read: 14 important do’s and don’ts of online dating]
#12 If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you find yourself talking to someone who fits every criteria of your dream partner, you should be jumping for joy, right? WRONG. The person catfishing you is trying to gain your trust by being the partner of your dreams. Don’t fall for it! Instead, ensure that this person is who they portray themselves to be before you go off and plan your life together. [Read: Why online dating can be more horrifying than a horror film]
#13 Catching catfish gets easier after a while. While I don’t wish for you to find more catfish to practice your sleuthing skills on, it’s always good to know that the more deceptive people you run into, the better you become at weeding them out. After a while, you’ll only spend your time and energy on people who are genuine with you.