‘Help! My mom is a catfish’

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catfish-movie-poster . The documentary Catfish spawned the term catfishing - to entrap someone into a romantic relationship by creating a false social media identity.

Dear Prudence,

For the past few months, my mom has been catfishing a guy online and I don't know what to do.

Earlier this year, I decided to give online dating a try and signed up for a free online dating site. My mom was very supportive and interested in me finding someone, and, unbeknownst to me, created a fake profile to scope out the site.

I was perturbed when I found out, but I went along with it under the condition that she didn't message anyone. She broke her promise and created an elaborate profile that mimicked my life (without using my name) and began talking to a few people. She ended up forming a friendship with one guy who was getting divorced who she felt sounded depressed.

While pretending to be a 28-year-old woman, she offered him suggestions on how to fix his profile. I begged her to cut it off with him, but she hasn't. In fact, she created several new profiles and pretended to be interested in him to help build his confidence. What really scares me is that he left a gift certificate for her to pick up at a local store, which I persuaded her not to use.

I know this guy owns guns and I'm scared for her if he ever finds out she's not who she's pretending to be. She's already seeing a psychiatrist for anxiety, so I don't know what else I can do. My dad is aware of what she's doing but he just brushes it off. Am I the crazy one for thinking this is a serious problem? My mom needs a new hobby, but she's full of excuses for why she can't work or volunteer somewhere because of her health.

Dumbfounded Daughter

 

Dear Dumbfounded,

I have a suggestion for something that might productively occupy your mother's time - a job at the dating site OkCupid, coming up with new experiments on how to tweak their algorithm. OkCupid just revealed it had been telling members that poor matches were actually good matches, in order to track what happened.

All on her own, your mother came up with her own exceedingly bad match: a depressed, gun-owning young man looking for love, and an older married woman looking to make herself feel wanted. I appreciate your bringing up the opportunity to recommend the compelling documentary, Catfish, from whence the term catfishing - to entrap someone into a romantic relationship by creating a false social media identity - is derived.

It sounds as if your mother's adventures could make a good episode on the spin-off television series. If she doesn't get shot first.

You have warned your mother about the dangers of what she's getting herself into, and presumably you've suggested she discuss her activities with her psychiatrist. But if she won't there's nothing you can do.

I can understand your father's stance. Likely he's glad she's occupying herself and is probably not highly concerned she's going to find someone to replace him. You need to tell your mother you are bowing out. Not only should you leave the website she's infiltrated, you should tell her you are not going to be a sounding board for her alternative-identity activities.

But don't give up on finding someone; just move to another dating site. As this one notes, there are plenty of fish in the sea.

Prudie

 

Washington Post/Slate

* Emily Yoffe is an advice columnist, using the name Prudence. Please send your questions for publication to [email protected] Questions may be edited.

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