It’s a natural human condition to attempt to manifest yourself as a better, and more attractive person than you actually are, but what’s the benefit of creating an elaborate facade when the truth will inevitably reveal itself? This mindset of creating an altered persona, or avatar, is extremely prevalent on social media and dating apps, yet surely it’s counter productive if you’re attempting to be something you’re not if you are already known, or wanting to be known. So many people use Snapchat filters to completely alter their physical appearance, then they become unrecognisable in person. What is the thinking behind this action?
“Most users of social media have experienced catfishing (which cats hate), senseless rejection, being belittled or ignored, outright sadism, or all of the above, and worse” – Jaron Lanier
Some people take a step beyond this and create a whole different character, and this is known as catfishing. This is an extremely deceptive tactic which is often used to attempt to gain financial advantages, scams, bullying, blackmail, explore their sexuality in anonymity, or to stalk/troll their chosen victim. Whether it’s someone living out a fantasy, or portraying themselves as more desirable than they truly are, often the victim is taken in as they are enjoying the attention they are receiving. The perpetrator may just be lonely and self-conscious and by creating another persona they are getting more attention than they would in the real world, but many people have a more sinister motive with psychopathic tendencies. Most people assume that a psychopath is a violent person, but there are other signs of psychopathological behaviour, and these tend to be a lack of empathy and remorse, vindictive and self-serving, antisocial or manipulative behaviour.
“The potential for anonymity loosens up social and moral codes. This means the need to be a certain way to fit into society seems distant, freeing up mental space to explore the dimmer, darker bits of our personalities without fearing stigma.” – Source
Face to face most people reach a judgement quite quickly whether someone is being genuine, and you can read people by their body language, but when you’re at the other end of an electronic device to the other person, it’s impossible to read signals and body language. If someone seems too good to be true then they probably are and you are wise to trust your instincts. If you’re with someone you have to portray your image relative to who you really are as it’s extremely difficult to pretend to be someone else, but being online behind a level of anonymity, people are able to craft themselves to be more appealing to the victim. They may empathise with you, be sympathetic, or claim to share the same interests as you in an attempt to lower your guard and persuade you to begin to trust them. You know you’re being catfished when the person is reluctant to reveal themselves in a video call, or they aren’t fond of the idea of meeting in person. Many will use reverse psychology and will over emphasise their alleged loyalty and honesty, and will play on your heart strings with a traumatic life event which has left them in financial ruin. As soon as the subject of money arises, you’re being played. Trust your intuition!