I wrote about the documentary Catfish when it first came out. Recently, I’ve been seeing the term ‘Catfish’ bandied around online more and after some investigation, discovered the guy behind the Catfish documentary, now has a TV show of the same name on MTV. For those of you unfamiliar with what exactly ‘Catfish’ means, it’s when people have an online relationship and it turns out one (or both) of the parties involved aren’t exactly everything they made themselves out to be. Ahh, people making up false identities online – always a good time. Or not, as the case may be. And I know this, because….dun dun duuuunnnn….I once got Catfished.
You can read the back story of my Catfisher here. In a nutshell, we met on MySpace (these kind of tales ALWAYS start with MySpace, right?) when I was living in Japan. He was in the US Navy and was based out there too. We had plenty o’ online chats, which led to us meeting up in person whenever he was in town. He looked like his pics, everything seemed normal. We developed a relationship. Then I moved to Canada, we kept in touch. A year or so later, he was stationed in Virginia and we resparked our long distance relationship. There was a good year or so where we spoke pretty much every day (only actually saw each other once).
During what was a particularly dark time in my life, he was the one person who was there for me. My closest confidant, my protector, always there with a kind text, a phone call at the right time – he was the closest person to me, no matter where he was in the world. I confided in him, told him things I’d never told anyone and such was the nature of our relationship, that I felt completely comfortable doing so.
Eventually, things fizzled. I moved back to England, we kept in touch and then one day, after a slight disagreement in an email, he confessed to me that he’s actually been married for 13 years and had two kids. Oh yeah, and the name I’d been calling him for four years? That wasn’t actually his name at all. Basically, pretty much everything I’d known about this dude had been a lie.
The bottom fell out of my world.
We hadn’t been in a ‘relationship’ for a while at this point, but the betrayal was still real and very relevant.
Sure, I was mad at him, but I was more angry with myself. What kind of idiot lets that happen? There were all kinds of signs looking back. On some level, I knew. What I know from having been in an online relationship is that there is usually a fear from which they stem. Fear and an intense loneliness. For me, I had become so depressed and isolated at that point in my life, the thought of actually going out and meeting people in a real world environment terrified me. I didn’t want to be in a relationship, but by the same token, I desperately didn’t want to be locked in this feeling of utter alone-ness that I carried around with me most days. My ‘Catfish’ provided relief from that.
He called me daily, sent me sweet texts, whenever he went somewhere I got a postcard, he’d send me roses or boxes of ‘Lush’ gift sets for Valentines (to this day, walking past a Lush shop and getting a waft of their soaps gives me the rage) – it was just enough attention to make me believe it was almost real.
But when the bombshell dropped, he may as well have torn my heart out of my body with his bare hands. I just couldn’t get my head around the fact that people actually do this – people actually have the TIME to do this – to pretend to be someone else, for FOUR YEARS. And to be clear, I never actually even loved this person. I loved the idea of him, I was emotionally involved, but (and I guess this is how you know you should always trust your gut) for one reason or another, I never let myself fall all the way.
Am I against online relationships? No, for some, they work and many-a-happy tale can come from them. But I do think you have to be able to do the hardest thing you can possibly do when it comes to matters of the heart: you must be able to separate logic and emotion. If they never seem to be able to come see you, if there’s always an excuse, if you find yourself making excuses about them to your friends, if any of the dots just don’t connect, if that weird something in your gut is just nagging away at you, letting you know that something isn’t quite right – it most likely isn’t.
While loneliness isn’t a nice feeling, it’s way better than having someone completely shatter your trust in humankind. Hold out. Wait. Live REAL life. Connect with actual people. You truly could be talking to anyone hiding behind a screen name – you never know whose web of lies you’re getting caught up in. Real love happens and it’s worth the wait. Go offline and find out.