It’s perhaps not about cash: we asked catfish why they fool people online

It’s perhaps 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, own shares in or get money from any business or organization that could take advantage of this informative article, and it has disclosed no appropriate affiliations beyond their scholastic visit.


University of Queensland provides financing as user associated with Conversation 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 christian mingle cost all in recent years.

A catfish is an individual who utilizes information that is false develop a persona online that doesn’t express their real identification. This commonly involves making use of taken or edited pictures, often extracted from an unwitting alternative party.

Catfish will utilize this information to create a far more version that is appealing of, then take part in continued private interactions with another individual (or individuals) who will be unacquainted with the deception.

Falling victim to catfish

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

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

Singer Casey Donovan, inside her 2014 memoir, composed in regards to a six-year relationship that turned into fake – inside her instance, 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 clearly was the popular MTV truth docuseries, hosted by catfish target Nev Schulman himself. Its presently with its 7th period of “taking online romances to the world” that is real.

A problem that is complicated

Since 2016, the competition that is australian customer Commission (ACCC) has gathered and posted data on relationship and relationship scams.

Its web site provides step-by-step data of reported relationship fraudulence in Australia, yet there is certainly information that is little about social catfishing – deception within the lack of economic fraudulence. There are additionally questions regarding the legality of impersonating somebody who will not occur.

Until these problems are settled, there is absolutely no avenue that is clear 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 faculties of catfish scammers

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

But exactly what kind of person becomes a social catfish?

We now have begun 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 on the motivations and feelings about their catfishing behaviour. Some of our key findings included:

  • Loneliness had been mentioned by 41% regarding the respondents because the good cause for their catfishing. One respondent stated:

I simply wished to be much more popular and then make buddies which could speak with me personally, some the main time.

Other people stated that the childhood that is lonely ongoing struggles with social connection had been adding facets.

  • Dissatisfaction along with their looks ended up being additionally a typical theme, represented in around one-third of reactions:

I’d a lot of self-esteem issues myself ugly and unattractive … The only way I have had relationships has been online and with a false identity… I actually consider.

Another respondent stated:

If We make an effort to send my genuine, unedited images to anyone who appears nice, they stop giving an answer to me personally. It’s a type of escapism, or an easy method of testing exactly just just what life will be like if perhaps you were the exact same person but more actually appealing.

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

I became 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 talked about a desire to escape:

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

  • Many reported feelings of self-loathing and guilt around their misleading behavior:

It’s hard to cease the addiction. Truth hit, and I also felt like a human that is shitty.

A lot more than one-third of individuals indicated a want to confess with their victims, and some had proceeded relations using them even with coming clean.

Notably interestingly, around one fourth of participants stated they started catfishing away from practicality, or as a result of some circumstance that is outside. One stated:

Being too young for a site or game intended I needed to lie about my age to individuals, leading to creating a persona that is complete.

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