Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The lure of Catfish

"So, you've been talking to Brandi for a year? And she's a model? And she was Miss Teen USA in 2003? And she is famous? And she messaged you randomly on Facebook? And now you want to move out of Bible Belt weirdo Deep South and live with her in NYC? When you normally spend time tipping cows and going tractor herding? Yep, yep. We should look further into this, huh?"

I'm addicted to Catfish. I bloody love it. I love Nev and I love Max and I love the way they have to keep straight faces while 'investigating' the most ridiculously obviously fake stories ever.

"Everything was true except my pictures, my name and my job."

That's the kind of thing they say.

But it's genuinely interesting. Some of the Catfishers are genuinely rather broken, lonely people who hate themselves so much they create fake personas online and use them to get the attention they don't get in real life. A vast army of invisible people desperately reaching out to others who are lonely, or gullible, or kind.

I've watched episodes where the Catfisher is an obvious troll who just wanted to be on TV, I've seen episodes where some really sweet people come out and apologise for pretending they were someone else. And some are stone cold sociopaths who don't even get what they're doing is weird as fuck.

A blonde southern hick with bad teeth and a really sweet demeanour convinced himself that a famous model found him online and was in love with him. Despite the fact they have never met. Or even seen each other's faces. They get so far with these constructs of relationships that it eats up years of their lives. It turned out to be his 'friend', Rose, who was doing it for shits and giggles. And because she doesn't look like Miss Teen USA, presumably.

The boys on the end of these stings (and it's usually boys) are always shy, lonely types who should KNOW that they couldn't attract the women that they think they're talking to. You can tell by their conversations that they do know this really, but for whatever reason, have decided to invite MTV along for the humiliation.

I am definitely charmed by Nev and Max. I mean, I'm cosnidering setting up something similar myself just so I can meet them. They're dreamy. Both of them. And their relationship is not at all homoerotic or anything. I could listen to Max all day talking about how weird people are and how sad it all is.

Because it is.

Allowing for the fact that a lot of it is reconstructed for the show, the stories are real and it's not a secret that loads of people pretend to be something they're not online. The average Facebook user is guilty of showing only one tightly edited face to the world - no one lets all their crazy hang out (even when they appear to) and no one airs the humiliations and horror of every day life (unless in an artful video blog that they hope will go viral. Soon everything in the universe will go viral and it will become a meaningless term. If it isn't already).

People don't speak the truth online. They create content. Whether it's a slightly airbrushed version of themselves for a couple of social media channels, or 25 fake profiles, all with their own intricate back stories. Perhaps the only thing between most of us and total online psychosis is the fact that we look up from our screens some of the time.

I'm aware not everyone is hooked into the internet but for my generation and most definitely for the one coming up hot on our heels, it is.

Catfish is the beginning. In a few years none of us will actually need to leave the house, we'll just let our avatars interact with each other in a kind of simulation of our lives. As we swallow Soylent Green and hook ourselves up to catheters and have sex with weird add ons to our iPads.

But for now, I'll watch stories of people who are lonely and sad and scared awkwardly come face to face. The scales drop from the men's eyes as they see the overweight, plain Jane in place of the Victoria Secrets model they so clearly hoped was there. Even though they KNEW. They guilt trip the girl and tell them they were so honest. What they mean is: "You're not hot." They're not hot either but that's irrelevant.

Sometimes the couple ends up together. Well, they do in the heat of the moment. With the cameras on them. But a couple months later they can't deal with the betrayal. They didn't get their movie star ending.

As an online dater it makes me think everyone is a fat Texan woman with massive issues, but that's OK. Maybe I'll like her when I meet her.

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