The Psychological Journey of Creating Fake Dating Profiles & 3 Reasons Not To Be A Catfish
Whether you’re in the online dating scene or not, you’ve probably heard the term catfish before. Yes, a catfish is a sea creature. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. Amongst us humans, we have catfish too. Their habitat - online dating apps.
What is a Catfish?
A Catfish is someone who pretends to be someone else on social media sites. This person completely assumes a fake identity and spares no effort in convincing their victim that they are exactly who they say they are.
While there are more extreme versions of catfish out there who skew their online persona with malicious intentions, catfishing to less extreme extents is actually more common than we might think. In fact, most of us probably have, in varying degrees, been a catfish online by creating a persona for our profiles on online dating apps.
Well… That is a nice way to put it. But, essentially, what’s been done behind this persona is some lying and withholding key information about ourselves.
You’re probably asking yourself “If I’ve lied or omitted certain information about myself, does that make me a catfish?” Perhaps not a complete catfish, but that doesn’t make you any less guilty of being dishonest about who you are!
Why do people “catfish”?
The list of reasons for “catfishing” is inexhaustible.
From rationalising "everyone wants to date someone younger”, ”I need to stand out and get noticed”, "everyone is lying about their online profiles anyway” to "get people to swipe right on my profile first and I’ll figure out how to tell the truth later".
While it seems fairly harmless at the beginning, the aftermath of being caught is something most of us might not be prepared for.
Let's talk about the lifecycle and psychological journey of a catfish, and 3 reasons why not to be one.
The Benign Beginning
It is all fun and good until someone swipes right on your profile a.k.a your fake persona. You enjoy the attention and the chats. Then they start to get really keen. They want to know more about you. They ask about your age, occupation, where you graduated, if you’d been married before, and so on. If lying is in your DNA, you keep the show going. But for most of us, it takes a lot of effort to avoid these questions AND to not speak the truth. It gets even harder when you begin to like Mr or Ms Swipe Right (for ease of reference, we’ll stay with Mr Swipe Right for the rest of this article). But wait! The nightmare doesn’t stop there. You realise that he actually has the potential of being more than a friend. Now what?
The Murderous Middle
At this point, the only thing you can do is to keep lying. You need to think of new lies to cover your tracks. At the same time, you’re trying to remember the lies that were told earlier, the day before, and the week before (yikes!). By now, you’re in a dilemma of wondering if you should come clean and tell the truth? But NO. Your insecure self needs to continue the lie because (you believe) your true self isn’t good enough. Mr Swipe Right would not have swiped right on your profile if it was the real you.
Reason not to be a catfish #1: You are now in a situation you clearly don't want to be in. There could be feelings of shame, guilt and helplessness about the situation. But you console yourself. Apart from those “minor” details that you have conveniently omitted or avoided, you have been yourself all along in your interactions with Mr Swipe Right. Surely he must like those parts of you. You promise yourself to tell Mr Swipe Right the truth the next chance you have.
The Excruciating Ending
The chance never came. It’s becoming harder and harder to cover your tracks. You’re on a slippery slope. The probability of you being inconsistent with what you say, what you share and what you do increases over time. One must learn to never underestimate people's attention to details. Chances are, Mr Swipe Right will eventually start to suspect that something about you is not quite right.
Reason not to be a catfish #2: Given that there is nothing Dr Google doesn’t know, if Mr Swipe Right was curious enough at this point, he finds pieces of information about you on LinkedIn and other social media pages. He’s devastated, disillusioned or simply unforgiving but he’s decided to stop talking to you. Yes, you get ghosted and you know you deserve it. Or he chooses to confront you for taking him on a ride that’s gone way too far. Either way, it's an ugly end to the story.
The Casualties (and reason not to be a catfish #3)
The guilt. The shame. The feeling of being rejected. But what is one of the worst consequences you may have to face? The risk of tarnishing your professional reputation if it so happens that Mr Swipe Right is in the same professional circle/industry as you and hasn’t quite recovered from being “catfished”.
Are you prepared to lose your job or the reputation that has taken you years and loads of hard work to build?
If you ask us, this is one risk that is not worth taking.
If at this point, you’re reconsidering your own dating profile, not all hope is lost! Here are some suggestions that may help:
Delete your fake profile right away.
Be courageous to put your real self online. Trust that you’ll attract people who embrace diversity and accept others for who they are and not what they look like, what job title they hold, or what their age is.
Not courageous enough? Go offline and make more friends in a more organic way via social-dating platforms such as Table For Two.
Be honest with yourself and others. If you’ve already connected with someone online, and there’s genuine mutual liking, take the brave step to tell the truth. You might be pleasantly surprised or rudely shocked. Either way, you’ll sleep better at night.
Acknowledge your insecurity and do some inner work. Ultimately, we have to accept and love ourselves first. Consider working with a life coach to get you started on a journey of self-empowerment.
Hold onto the belief that there is someone out there who shares your values of honesty and authenticity and begin your relationship on these solid premises.
Banish all the excuses you have to be a catfish because it is absolutely not worth losing your peace of mind.
In conclusion, never start something you can't finish because lies are like bottomless pits - they can never be covered.
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Table For Two was founded as an alternative to the ‘swipe culture’ of dating apps and believes in a ‘social-first’ approach. They take the pressure off the expectations of dating, which allows individuals to socialise and mingle in person based on shared values, interests, and personalities. This way, their members are able to focus on simply getting to know one another on a deeper level, which makes for more meaningful connections.