I'm going to posit the theory that Nev Shulman is the most 21st century person alive. He is the creator of the documentary Catfish and the spin-off MTV reality show Catfish: The TV Show, about the struggle for genuine romantic connection in a social media age where everyone seems to be faking it.
Shulman encapsulates the meritocratic promise of the internet age: that you can just jump in your car with your best mate and a bunch of GoPros to produce something worthy of Twitter fame and a prime-time MTV slot. Alongside Catfish he now has extra activities on his busy schedule: paternity rights activism and a column on annoying Facebook feed thing ATTN. You could say he has a finger in just about every pie 2016 has to offer.
Here we talk to one of the internet's first DIY stars about young love and nice cars.
VICE: Why did you break-up with your first girlfriend?
Nev Schulman: My first real girlfriend was in college. This is getting into some emotional territory, but one of the reasons why we broke up was because she was way too good for me at the time, and I couldn't just trick her into being in love with me any longer. And also, I was dishonest and not really ready to be 100 percent committed to a relationship. She also moved back to Europe, so it was a real cinematic end to a college romance. It was sad, but I'm happy to say that we've remained really good friends.
What was your worst phase?
There's so many, it's hard to pick just one. But it was probably my high school phase. Well, honestly from five to 20 was probably all pretty nasty in terms of me just being pretty crazy and reckless and getting into trouble all the time. I had issues, for sure, but I'm glad to say I think I've ironed most of them out, have learned to control my temper and I think I'm doing OK now.
How many people have been in love with you?
Not counting all of the marriage proposals that I get on Twitter every day? I mean, there's not as many now that everybody knows I'm in love and I'm about to become a father [Since we did this interview Nev's had a daughter, Cleo James. Mazel Tov.] But I think I've had four true, deep loves. I think it takes two or three to really figure out what you want or who you are.
Who is the worst person on Twitter?
That's a tough question to answer because there are so many worst people on Twitter. It seems to be the place where everybody goes to be their worst. The easy answer is obviously Donald Trump. He seems to have figured out how to exploit that platform for its most evil and destructive purposes. But yeah, I see so many young people creating accounts and spending all day tweeting tens of thousands of times just to rile people up and be nasty. So I don't know if there's one worst person; I think the answer is just everybody.
When in your life have you been truly overcome with fear?
While I can't remember any one incident, every day for a moment or a minute, sometimes longer, I feel a fear that many people do – whether you admit it or not – that I'm not good enough or am not doing enough or haven't done enough. Sometimes that fear motivates me to be my best self, and sometimes that fear wins and I spend a minute or an hour or a day down on myself, and bummed that I'm not yet who I would like to be. So it's not a particular moment as much as an accumulation of many. But fear, I think, is a healthy part of what makes us who we are.
What is the nicest thing you own?
It's obviously all relative, but it's my mint condition, black, 1992 Jeep Cherokee XJ. It was my grandmother's car that she bought new in '92, and I bought it from her in 2005 with only about 50,000 kilometres on it. I love that thing. I think it's the best looking compact SUV perhaps ever made. If you asked me that question in a couple of weeks I would tell you my daughter, of course, who will be the most precious thing that I have. But I can't answer that yet.
Complete this sentence: the problem with young people today is…
They are too concerned with other people – too concerned with how other people will see them, will think of them, will react to them, that they aren't working on themselves. It's sort of tricking a generation into paralysis.
There is far more good going for them in terms of their open-mindedness, their ability to express themselves, their understanding and acceptance of liberal ideas and sexuality. There is so much good that young people are responsible for now. The problem isn't young people; it's with old people and the restrictions and expectations and general frustrations that exist that young people have to deal with.
So, if anything, the problem with young people is that we're not loud enough, we're not aggressive enough – we need to be more active, more forceful, we need to really speak up for ourselves, because we are right. We know what's good and what we should have, and we are just perhaps a little nervous or worried or afraid to stand up for ourselves. Because like any young generation we don't want to screw up or make a mess or do what we are told is wrong, even if we know in our hearts it's what needs to be done.