While we might not easily admit to it, many of us have flirted with the idea of finding love online.
With the internet growing on everyone, it was inevitable that online dating would become the norm. And it is certainly easy to mislead your prey online. In fact, all people can see on your profile is what you choose to post, so you can make up anything about yourself.
This is how many people have been caught up in relationships that have proved to be fake – because people basically lie.
“I think people lie out of fear of their past mistakes, and it takes time to understand that we learn from those mistakes, so it’s okay to make them,” said Nev Schulman, the co-creator and host of MTV’s Catfish.
The show is a follow-up to the 2010 documentary filmed by Schulman’s brother Ariel, which recorded Schulman’s failed relationship with a girl he met online. With partner Max Joseph, Schulman devised the hit series.
“We call these people Catfish as most of them lie about who they are because they are not happy with who they really are. It may be because of their physical appearance, their job or their economic status. So to feel good about themselves, they go online and create the life they wish they had. And people start talking to them and treating them as though they are the persons they presented themselves as,” explained Joseph.
“So it becomes like a drug addiction and they want to keep it going. The problem comes when they eventually meet someone they really like and they start talking to them, sharing intimate things with them. It obviously gets harder and harder each day for them to come out and tell the truth.
“Eventually they have to say something and they know that move inevitably ends the relationships.”
The pair do for online dating what Joey Greco does for Cheaters. But Joseph pointed out their primary focus isn’t about educating people on the dangers of internet socialising, but mainly exposing those who misrepresent themselves.
“This is not an educational show. We are not out to caution people about the dangers of putting your life online. That may come out as a by-product of what we do.
“We actually think internet dating is superior to meeting people physically because online you cross borders and seas without leaving your home to find that person that you get along with,” said Joseph.
He admitted, though, that you can’t date someone online for ever – at some point that physical meeting has to take place. And that’s where everything changes.
“All the time that you spend before meeting hypes up what the actual meeting will be like. You wonder what it feels like to touch them, what they smell like and perhaps how they move their mouth when talking.
“It is all a bunch of sensory things that the internet can’t provide. This is where most relationships end,” said Joseph.
If we are going to be honest about lies and relationships then we would have to admit that people lie even in the physical, face-to-face romances.
So it is intriguing that Schulman and Joseph treat the online lie as heinous when many people lie naturally, on and offline.
And some “liars” spin their web to save their partners from pain.
“I agree; there are episodes on the show where people have used deception online for good. In the coming season, one actually did it to help a friend in a bad situation.”
The catfish saw that their best friend was spiralling out of control as she was deep into drugs and promiscuity. So to save the situation, the good friend created a guy profile and started hitting on her friend.
“This distracted the troubled friend from her bad way and in turn she stopped the drugs. Although she was hurt that there was no real guy, in the end, she did admit that the lie had saved her life. So you do get those good stories out of Catfish as well,” said Schulman.
With increasing reports on online perverts and criminals, you’d think that people would be more savvy – but that’s not the case.
“The younger generation that grew up online is gullible because there is a lack of knowledge of what it feels like to meet people in real life. They use the internet as a testing ground to not only fall in love, but to trick someone to fall in love with them,” explained Schulman.
“I think it has a lot to do with growing up online. Also, we are all vulnerable and we get lonely and the internet is the quickest place to go to get attention. That traffic, in turn, also attracts predators – and that’s where we come in,” he added.
• Catfish premieres tonight on MTV (DStv Channel 130) at 8.30pm.