I was recently interviewed for an online magazine article called Confessions of a catfish. When I communicated with the author, Aris Apostolopoulos, I had no idea that he was going to admit that he, himself, once engaged in catfishing.
Quite a few Lovefraud readers have told me about their experiences being catfished. This means they met someone online who fabricated a complete false identity, including a fake name, fake history, fake friends and fake crises.
Target almost died
One woman contacted me in 2012, before the word “catfishing” had entered the lexicon, to tell me her story. She was involved with a person for almost three years, entirely on the phone and social media. Never met the guy.
In the beginning he love bombed her, sent her gifts, and liked everything that she posted on Facebook. He sent her bouquets five days in a row to convince her to be his girlfriend.
Once she was committed to the relationship, it evolved into control. He called her on the phone incessantly, belittling her with every call. He faked his own disappearance and death. The woman believed she was responsible and became so distraught that she actually had a nervous breakdown, overdosed and almost died.
She finally broke it off, realizing everything was a lie. But she contacted me again a month ago. The episode still haunts her.
Catfish as sociopath
This perpetrator, and others that I’ve heard about, have all the personality traits of a sociopath. They caused significant heartache in their targets, just for the fun of it. In my opinion, these catfishers engaged in the behavior simply to entertain themselves by exerting power and control over some random person they encounter on the Internet.
Sociopaths love playing the puppet master. They love pulling strings and watching people jump. To me, that’s what these catfishers are doing. They pretend to love someone, the person responds, and they experience the thrill of “duping delight.”
So I must admit I was perplexed when the journalist who interviewed me for the story asked, “Do you believe we are a little bit catfish ourselves? I mean, we all tell a couple of white lies when we meet a person we like online. Does that make us catfish?”
I know that many people tend to “enhance” their online dating profiles by claiming to be younger and thinner than they actually are, even posting 10- and 20-year old photos. That, to me, doesn’t qualify as catfishing.
In my mind, catfishing means creating a fake identity, and that’s the territory of spies and sociopaths, and I don’t know any spies.
Confessions of a catfish
So imagine my surprise when I found my comments in an article in which the author admitted a previous life as a catfish. He wrote that he knew it was wrong, but only built a fake online persona to make himself feel better.
Do people really do this? People who are not disordered, who are perhaps suffering from low self-esteem, create imaginary identities to attract friends and lovers?
Aris, the author, relayed his experience, which occurred before he went to college. He also gave the example of a young woman who, at age 17, fell in love with the prom king, who didn’t know that she existed.
I notice that both of these people where in high school when they created the catfishing profiles. Does that mean it’s a phase? Something kids do while they’re still sorting out their identities, and they later grow out of?
The Internet didn’t exist when I was in high school, so I don’t have first-hand experience with this phenomenon. Social media has created an entire new dimension of interaction between people. So is catfishing sociopathic behavior, or a phase? Or is it “normal” behavior among teenagers, but “abnormal” among adults?
I’d love to hear your views.
Read Confessions of a catfish, on kernalmag.dailydot.com.