MTV’s Catfish showcases online relationships; students relate

Selvi Sekar

     What do you think of when you hear the word “catfish”? I’m sure a fish with whiskers comes to mind, though it’s no longer just a river dweller, but rather defined as someone who fabricates online identities to trick people into romantic relationships. You might have even seen the new TV show Catfish on MTV.

     Nev Schulman, star of the 2010 documentary Catfish and now its mysteriously creepy yet interesting MTV spinoff show, fell victim to this façade firsthand. As many MTV fans already know, a “catfish” is a reference to this type of internet dating hoax. The term refers to the 2010 documentary Catfish, which tells the story of Nev Schulman’s quest to meet his internet girlfriend.

     In the film, Schulman sets out to meet a woman named Megan, whom he fell in love with online. He later discovers that Megan is a completely fictional person created by a woman named Angela. Much to Nev’s surprise, Angela turned out to be a middle-aged woman who was nothing like the woman she pretended to be.

     MTV and the producers of the film version of Catfish send Nev and his filmmaking partner Max Joseph to help couples who have never met in real life. They want to know if the person they have fallen in love with is the real deal or if they are a “catfish.”

Photo by Chad McCartinAlicia Passmore (12), who admits to online dating, shows off her long-term boyfriend from England. The couple met after Alicia discovered his band on Myspace and became a fan of his music.
Photo by Chad McCartin
Alicia Passmore (12), who admits to online dating, shows off her long-term boyfriend from England. The couple met after Alicia discovered his band on Myspace and became a fan of his music.

     Some couples have been together for a few months, while others have been together for years. When that fateful knock on that front door comes, it unlocks shocking revelations and sometimes even a possible encounter with the actual person they’ve been talking to.

     In one of the episodes, a girl named Felicia confessed that she had a history of lying to people online. The reason? People often made offensive comments about her appearance, calling her ugly and fat. “I’ve even heard it from family members that I was ugly and I was fat,” she said. “I found an outlet through online dating because I could pretend to be somebody I wasn’t.”

     According to an MTV survey of people 18-24 years-old, one in four has online dated, one in two has a friend who does it, and in the past three years, traffic to top 10 online dating sites has tripled.

     One particular student at Hereford, Alicia Passmore (12), admits to online dating. In fact, she has been in a long-term relationship with a guy from England, whom she discovered in a band on Myspace. She explained that she was a fan of his music for awhile, and eventually ended up talking to him online.

     “We try to talk on the phone, but it’s too expensive, so we just stick to skyping and messaging each other on Facebook,” she said.

      Before she met him for the first time, she was extremely nervous. “I was sitting down in my kitchen, counting down the minutes. I even wore my glasses, so I wouldn’t run up to the wrong person,” she jokingly said, making sure she could actually see the guy clearly and to refrain from going up to the wrong person.

     Most people, however, find themselves in an awkward rut when they finally meet the person they’ve been dating online—especially when that person turns out to be someone completely different.

    Another student, who would like to remain anonymous, doesn’t online date, but instead engages in online friendships where she meets people on various sites and talks to them every day, and occasionally skypes with them, too.

     “I’ve socialized online with people in Brazil, Canada, England, France, and Italy,” she said.

      Rachel Smith (10) related to this student and said, “It’s easier to meet diverse people online than it is in the small, rural town we live in. It also opens up your horizons.”

     Connie Powell (11), who has been in an online relationship in the past, said, “I met someone online and started dating them. Our relationship was fine; we were together for a year and a half.”

     On the other hand, many students disagree and don’t necessarily support online dating.

     For example, Alex Giacomazza (12), had a rather strong opinion about it and said, “I think online relationships are a bad idea because you can never really trust the other person sitting on the other side of the computer screen. It could be someone you know in real life or even a middle-aged man for all you know.”

     “Online relationships are just pointless. If you don’t know the person, why would you want to talk to them?” Khloe Imes (11) stated.

     “I’d rather meet someone in person and be in a relationship with them in real life than with someone online,” Emily Foerster (12) said.

      Although online relationships may lead to love, it’s evidently important to know the dangers of it and prepare for possible deception and heartbreak before getting yourself into one.