If you tune into the U.S. News these days you’ll find countless stories about Manti T’eo, the college football player who was supposedly scammed into believing he was in a relationship with a woman he’d met only online. The term for this is type of non-existent person is a Catfish. Basically it’s someone who pretends to be someone else online.
I have to admit, I’m fascinated by this story. As a veteran online dater, and someone who writes about it regularly, I’ve always found it hard to believe that anyone could fall for this sort of scam. Recently someone contacted me who, I realized early on, was a genuine Catfish. As soon as I figured out what I was dealing with…I cut off communication with him (her?? Who knows, maybe). And I discovered at that point that I STILL find it hard to believe that anyone would fall for this!
We Are All Vulnerable
Yet people do, and often it seems. There’s a popular docu-drama called…of course…. Catfish. The Dr. Phil show regularly features singles who’ve been snared by one of these slimy fish. I just want to tear my hair out and scream at them. But then, on another level, I realize that we all at some time or another experience those pangs of wanting to be a part of a couple. And that’s where I think we are all vulnerable to getting caught up in an online-only relationship that just may turn out to be phony. We so very much want to be part of a couple that we let our imaginations take over.
Even when you’re dealing with someone true and honest, emailing, IM’ing and other online communication is NOT the same as real life. You can’t be in love with someone you’ve never met IRL. Sorry…not possible. You can be infatuated with the IDEA of them. Imaginations are funny like that; they fill in the blanks so-to-speak. Until you’ve met…your love is imaginary.
I’m lucky in that, early on in my online dating adventures, I met a man online who was a fabulous writer. As a writer myself, I’m a sucker for good prose. We emailed for about a month and a half and WOW, what chemistry we had on paper…then we made a horrible mistake…we met. Where our chemistry was steamy in writing, in person it was, well, non-existent. Since then I insist on meeting after two or three emails. So I think this keeps my imagination in check.
Here Are Some Tips
So, how do you spot the catfish out there in the dating waters? Here are a few things to look out for when meeting someone online:
- They sound perfect on paper…too perfect. Their jobs are perfect, their headshots are gorgeous (and there’s usually only one picture posted). They seem like every woman or man’s dream date.
- They want to email endlessly and when you suggest meeting they either ignore that request or continually make excuses, or they continually cancel dates you’ve set up for meeting.
- The writing in their emails is awkward with mis-spellings and grammar mistakes that only a child would make.
- They push you to share details about yourself, but never give out any solid information about themselves.
- When you search out their name, place of residence and any other information you have about them, you come up with nothing.
If you find any combination of these red flags and are still not sure if this person is a phony. Then call them out on what they’re doing. QUESTION them. If this indeed is a Catfish, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll never hear from them again.
Date safe my friends, date smart!