Three Things You Might Not Know about Catfishing

Catfishing is defined as what happens when somebody creates a fraudulent profile, most often for the purpose of pursuing a deceptive internet relationship (Cassada Lohman, 2013). Like most people, I first heard about the phenomenon of Catfishing when the MTV reality show Catfish: The TV Show aired several years ago. Here are three things you might not know about it:

1. It is incredibly easy and tempting to create a fake profile

The internet allows us to manipulate how we portray ourselves to the rest of the world- and we all do it. Your Instagram page is probably full of filtered pictures of you laughing with your friends, playing with your kids, and selfies when your makeup is on point. Most of us don't post things that paint us in a a negative light. Catfishing takes this idea to the extreme.

The internet allows individuals with insecurities to take on the identity of somebody else, typically somebody else that may be perceived as being more desirable.  Creating a fake profile acts as an escape into a fantasy where the person has complete control over the way in which they interact with their "victim". It is very easy to lie on the internet and over text messaging, where body language and voice tone are absent. 

2. It is almost equally as easy to become a Catfish's victim

This is where we talk about science. When a person begins to develop romantic feelings for another, the brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that influences mood and emotions. Dopamine causes feelings of excitement and happiness. Some may refer to this as the "honeymoon phase" in a relationship. This may cause the victim to overlook seemingly obvious red flags (such as a refusal to video chat, Snapchat, meet in person, etc.) because the person is feeling excited and happy about their relationship. 

After dopamine plays its role, two other neurotransmitters called norepinephrine and phenylethylamine have their turn. These neurotransmitters cause the victim to hyper-focus on the catfish and also cause feelings of euphoria. In other words, the victim is feeling very devoted to their catfish. This makes it even easier to ignore potential red flags. 

3. There is help for both Catfish and their victims

Some counseling professionals view the phenomenon of catfishing as a behavioral addiction. Sometimes, catfish describe their deceptive online behavior as being addictive and have difficulty stopping. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be beneficial for an individual struggling with catfishing. Additionally, addressing potential underlying issues such as depression, anxiety, self-esteem and body image issues can aid the person even further. 

Victims of catfish can also benefit from counseling. Learning potential red flags and how to identify them before they become too committed to the catfish can be invaluable. Also, a counselor can help a person recovering from the mental and emotional after effects of being in a relationship with a catfish.  




Emily Teegarden