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It is perhaps perhaps maybe not about cash: we asked catfish why they fool people online

It is perhaps perhaps maybe not about cash: we asked catfish why they fool people online


Senior Lecturer in Psychology, The University of Queensland

Disclosure statement

Eric Vanman doesn’t work for, consult, very very own stocks in or get money from any business or organization that could reap the benefits of this short article, and has now disclosed no appropriate affiliations beyond their educational visit.


University of Queensland provides capital being a known user regarding the discussion AU.

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You have probably come across the term “catfish”, first coined in the 2010 documentary of the same name if you have engaged with internet culture at all in recent years.

A catfish is somebody who makes use of false information to develop a persona online that will not express their real identification. This commonly involves utilizing taken or modified pictures, usually extracted from an unwitting party that is third.

Catfish will utilize this information to create an even more version that is appealing of, then participate in continued private interactions with someone else (or individuals) that are unacquainted with the deception.

Falling prey to catfish

Within the 2010 documentary, Nev Schulman learns that a lady with who he’s got developed a relationship that is online nine months is obviously fake. Another married woman (whom initially stated to be her mom) has utilized photos from the model’s account to generate the complicated, phoney relationship.

There has been a few high-profile cases of catfishing reported in the news ever since then.

Singer Casey Donovan, inside her 2014 memoir, had written in regards to a six-year relationship that ended up being fake – in her own situation, the catfish also lied about her sex.

Last year, NBA celebrity Chris Andersen became embroiled in a catfishing scandal that finished in jail time for the catfish.

Then there’s the popular MTV reality docuseries, hosted by catfish target Nev Schulman himself. Its presently in its 7th season of “taking online romances in to the world” that is real.

A complicated problem

Since 2016, the Australian Competition and customer Commission (ACCC) has gathered and posted data on dating and love frauds.

Its web site provides detail by detail data of reported relationship fraud in Australia, yet there was small information available about social catfishing – deception within the lack of economic fraudulence. Additionally there are questions regarding the legality of impersonating somebody who doesn’t occur.

Until these problems are remedied, there isn’t any clear opportunity to pursue for victims of social catfish. Victims may remain unacquainted with the deception for months or years – another explanation catfishing frequently goes that is unreported it even harder to quantify.

The character characteristics of catfish scammers

As smartphones and linked products become more and more pervasive, the likelihood of dropping target to deception are increasing along side our display screen time.

Exactly what kind of individual becomes a catfish that is social?

We now have started emotional research to investigate this concern. Into the previous 12 months we have actually recruited 27 individuals from all over the world who self-identified as catfish for online interviews.

The interviews concentrated primarily to their motivations and emotions about their catfishing behavior. A number of our findings that are key:

  • Loneliness had been mentioned by 41% associated with the respondents since the good basis for their catfishing. One respondent stated:

I recently desired to be much more popular and then make buddies which could speak to me, some the main time.

Others stated that the lonely youth and ongoing struggles with social connection had been adding facets.

  • Dissatisfaction making use of their physical appearance has also been a typical theme, represented in around one-third of reactions:

I’d a lot of self-esteem dilemmas … We actually think about myself unsightly and ugly … really the only method We have actually had relationships happens to be online and by having a false identification.

Another respondent said:

If We you will need to deliver my genuine, unedited photos to anyone who seems good, they stop giving an answer to me personally. It’s a kind of escapism, or an easy method of testing exactly exactly just what life will be like if perhaps you were the exact same individual but more actually appealing.

  • Some reported utilizing false identities or personas to explore their sex or sex identification. As an example:

I happened to be catfishing ladies on it… I pretend to be a man as I would prefer to be in the male role of a heterosexual relationship than a female in a homosexual relationship because I am attracted to women but have never acted.

  • Significantly more than two-thirds of reactions pointed out a want to escape:

It may appear magical, to be able to escape your insecurities … But in the end, it just worsens them.

  • Many reported emotions of shame and self-loathing around their misleading behavior:

It’s hard to cease the addiction. Truth hit, and I also felt such as a shitty individual.

Significantly more than one-third of individuals indicated a need to confess for their victims, and some had proceeded relations with them even with coming clean.

Notably interestingly, around 25 % of participants said they started catfishing away from practicality, or as a result of some outside situation. One stated:

Being too young for an online site or game suggested I had to lie about my age to individuals, leading to creating a complete persona.


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